Why You Should Not Pay More Child Support For More Parenting Time

child support parenting timeBy Jennifer M. Paine

Cordell & Cordell Divorce Lawyer

Chances are, at some point during your child custody case, you will hear the following phrase: I will give you more parenting time if you pay me more child support.

Maybe your soon-to-be ex will not be so blunt, by saying some thing like I’m not sure I can live on that little amount of support, or her divorce attorney will be more bold by saying something like You just want equal time so you don’t have to pay as much child support.

But, the point is all the same: if you “really” wanted to spend time with your kids, you would not be concerned about paying “a little extra” to do so.

But is that the right approach? For many reasons, the answer is No!

In many states, if you agree to pay more child support than the law would require, you may not be able to get out of that agreement if you lose income or your ex gains income.

But before you respond back to your soon-to-be-ex and her attorney that they are greedy-no-good-you-know-whats, take a step back and identify the problem.

More often than not, the root of that problem is not greed but something else –and something you can fix.

 

Extracurriculars

Sometimes, the problem is paying for extracurricular activities, sports, school trips, etc. In most states, these are “extras” that are not included in base child support, which is intended for food, clothing, shelter and necessaries, or medical support, for doctor’ visits, prescriptions and healthcare treatment.

Rather, they are an additional expense that parents either agree to pay, agree to share, or, if their child support order or divorce decree is silent on who pays what, fight over for eons to come.

Believe me, it is not fun, but common, for parents to come back to court to fight over who pays for ice time for hockey, cleats for soccer, and hotels for travel dance team.

When parents do not agree, the parent who wants to keep the child enrolled in the activity will tend to hoard child support in order to do so.

We know that, generally speaking, the more parenting time that parent has, the more child support that parent receives, and thus, the need to keep more than equal time.

If your child is enrolled in an activity, and presumably one the child enjoys, then make arrangements for paying for it separate and apart from child support.

Always talk with a divorce attorney, though, to make sure you are not locked into paying activities your income may not support in the future, which an appropriately drafted order will prevent.

In doing so, you eliminate the need to grab onto days of parenting time to keep your child support obligation higher.

 

Budget

Other times, the problem is poor budgeting for both parents.

budgetThe reality is, when a married household divides into two households, living expenses increase rather than divide into half. The family can no longer share overhead for housing, utilities, and insurance, and it must provide for two households on about the same income.

Your spouse, though, will likely perceive you as “living the good life” in a bachelor pad while she is saddled with the kids – and, from that perspective, will ask for as much money from you as possible to support them.

Sit down together, or email each other if you cannot, to create budgets for each household to show such is not the case, as well as to determine how to support your child going forward.

This may, and often does, mean trimming the excess (e.g., basic cable rather than the movie channel package) so that both households have sufficient funds to support the child – and the child is more likely to spend time in both.

The problem here is adjusting to a post-divorce lifestyle and that is fixed by budgeting.

 

Fear of Unknown

Most of the time, fear of the unknown comes from facing the single life. This is particularly true for families featuring a stay-at-home parent and a working parent.

The parent who did not work is usually the one most worried about “making it all work” post-divorce, when money is more limited, or feels to be anyway.

It is prudent for both of you to sit down with your divorce attorneys to identify your assets and how they will be divided, then a financial planner to determine what is the best use of those assets (Investment? College? Trust?).

fearThe more educated the both of you are as to how your assets will work for you post-divorce, the less likely your spouse is to feel the need to “grab whatever she can” now to be safe. The problem here is the fear of the financial unknown, and this is a fear both of you can fix by planning ahead.

Then there are those spouses who are just plain greedy and bent on taking from you that which is most important to you – your parent-child relationship.

For those spouses, no matter how much negotiating, budgeting and planning you do, the response will be the same – pay me X or else.

No matter what you offer to do, the answer is the same – and that means, like a slippery slope, even if you offer to pay more, more will eventually not be enough.

For those spouses, the best approach is probably a trial during which the family court judge can see the greed for all of its glory and fashion a schedule for you that you would never get otherwise.

But, believe it or not, those spouses are rare. If you can identify the real problem for yours feeling the need for more child support, then you might very well find yourself in an equal parenting time schedule easier than you expected.

Cordell & Cordell:

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Jennifer M. Paine is a Michigan Divorce Lawyer with Cordell & Cordell. She is licensed to practice in Michigan, and has been admitted pro hac vice in Illinois, Ohio, and the United States Court of Federal Claims.

Ms. Paine received her Bachelor of Arts in English and Mathematics from Albion College and graduated Summa Cum Laude. She received her Juris Doctorate from MSU College of Law and graduated Summa Cum Laude.

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6 comments on “Why You Should Not Pay More Child Support For More Parenting Time

    I want to know if I can reduce my child support money because I remarried and we have a baby I’m the one paying almost all the bills. What can I do?

    Where’s my parenting time
    I filed for divorce when I was still in prison (for a driving offense to which, I do not currently do not have a driver’s license). It was finalized once I was released yet, still in a half-way house. While in the half-way for six months after my released, I was unable to work per M.D.O.C. and it was at this time my divorce was finalized. I have two Child Support cases, one of which is still in Michigan. The Michigan case reviewed my child support while I was still was in prison. To which I filed paper work to “suspend” support for the duration of my incarceration. For my divorce, I wasn’t paying child support to my now ex-wife while we were married.
    Now, I’ve moved to Louisiana. My ex-wife played keep away with our two girls. All I knew was that they ‘lived’ somewhere in Texas. Prior to her moving to Texas the divorce judge didn’t say/ set anything about parenting time due to my being in the half-way house. Nor, was anything set for child support (Once I was able to work, the jobs I had lasted no longer than a few weeks at best). I moved to Louisiana for work. I tried to maintain communication with my ex and our daughters to, whom I bought cell phones. It had/ has gotten to the point where my girls told me that they’re punished for communicating with me. To add insult to injury, my ex confirmed this as well. Since my being in Louisiana, my son’s mother (who’s in Michigan) was only receiving $9.77/ wk for child support. When additional money was needed, she’d contact me and I’d send (MoneyGram) an agreed upon amount. It should also be noted that, I have no support system here in Louisiana. Which my kids’ mothers know this. I’ve maintained (so was my understanding) an open dialog/ arrangement with my son’s mother. With my ex being the way she is, put me on child support. Here’s the thing; Louisiana only set my child support, nothing about parenting time. In doing so, I tried explaining this to my son’s mother and how this may effect ‘our’ arrangement. A few weeks after my trying to explain this to my son’s mother. She calls me and tells me that ‘our’ arrangement isn’t working out for her and that she needs more money more consistently. Then month or after being placed on child support for my girls (who are 14 & 15yrs old). I happened to get hurt on the job and am now still on worker’s comp. A month almost to the day after being hurt, Michigan contacts me for a support review. I contacted my son’s mother and explained the adverse effects to them increasing the child support. Nothing was said or done to aide me. Michigan only would set child support and would not hear anything pertaining to parenting time. The beginning part of June I went to Michigan to get my son for the summer. While I was there I put in for a Parenting Time Abatement at the F.O.C. To which it was denied because there’s no parenting to begin with. Louisiana states that they have nothing to do with parenting time and that has to be taken up with Texas. In both of these cases I was told to hire an attorney. I’d like to know how am I to hire two attorneys on a fixed income? I don’t make enough as it is to support myself. My car was repo’d about two months ago and I’m robbing from Peter to pay Paul. What can be done to secure parting time and to have it enforced? Moreover, the courts are always hollering “in the best interest of the child” how would my situation be observed?

    Atlanta dad, Good luck with it, yes you can represent yourself in the court without an attorney.

    Keep us posted on what legal points you would use, I am in a similar situation too.

    Change In Custody “UNLIKELY”
    I’m a dad who was not originally awarded custody of my two kids ages now 6 and 4 girl and boy respectively. I’ve been divorced for a couple of years now and recently found concrete evidence of her planning for the divorce for a couple of years. My ex did absolutely refused to go back to work after having the kids. She has two degrees including her MBA. She still isn’t working. The divorce was confrontational to say the least and she basically walked away with half of my savings, 401k etc. not to mention primary custody of our kids. We’ve been to court several times for contempts in which the courts found her guilty of refusing visitation and has ordered her to provide me with information she originally refused to before. Now she’s admantely refuses to sign the kids passports for her own personal reasons. There isn’t any stipulation on vacation time for either parent, but she said she will not sign the documents unless a judge orders her to. I want to seek primary custody of our kids, but do not want to spend more money on attorney’s fees. Do I have sufficient evidence to seek primary custody even though she’s moved to a county that is more “mother” friendly.

    To Father of 3
    Usually, no, but your support order may provide otherwise, or your decree/judgment/order may give one parent the “power” to decide what activities the child(ren) attend. I encourage you to speak to an attorney and/or schedule an appointment with us to review our order and your options. Thanks for reading our website. JMP.

    Father of 3
    My ex-wife signed my sons up for “DANCE” lesions which cost over a $1000 and didnot ask me anything about it beforehand. She even expected me to drop them off and pick them up. Months later she wants me to pay her back for half the cost. The boys didnot even want to go! Can an ex just sign kids up for whatever she wants and then make me pay half when I was never even emailed about it before she signed them up???

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