So your relationship went south, and you are very, very angry with your former partner. The two of you have children together, and you are in court getting a child support order. It’s a stressful time and maybe an opportunity to get some revenge. Should you use this time to try and make your ex-partner’s life a financial nightmare?
Don’t do it. Sure you’re angry, but whether you are the custodial parent or the noncustodial parent, it is in best interests of everyone, including your children, to make the process as painless as possible. Child support is not an instrument of revenge. Its purpose, as you well know, is to provide financial support for your child from the absent parent, when he or she is no longer in the household providing direct support. Getting it should be a very straight forward process and it has been designed to be that.
All states, in order to receive federal funding for the maintenance of families in need, are required to promulgate child support guidelines to be used in all cases involving support. These guidelines are based on income and, regardless of whether or not you agree with the amount they indicate should be paid in your case, they will be applied.
In order for you to be prepared for your court appearance, take the time to do and consider the following:
Review the child support guidelines applicable in your state. If you know ahead of time how much the order will, it won’t come as a surprise. They are available online on your state’s website. If you want a physical copy, you can get it at any courthouse handling family law, or any state agency involved with child support.
Make yourself familiar with any deviation criteria (reason why the guidelines should not apply in your case) and determine whether or not they are relevant to you.
Don’t make any other appointments for your court day. Family court is very busy. Be prepared to spend the entire day, if you get out early consider yourself lucky. If you don’t, it’s the norm.
Get your financial information together and fill out a financial affidavit ahead of time. It will save you time and maybe get your case heard earlier because it is ready earlier.
If possible, talk to the other side ahead of time. If you have any agreement you’ll be out earlier. Remember though, that the agreement will have to be according to the guidelines. The court is legally required to follow them.
Leave your children at home. They do not need to be involved in this process.
Understand that, in most instances, when a family splits up, there is not enough money to take care of two households. Child support won’t remedy that. Be prepared to reallocate your budget.
Finally, when you are in court, seeing your former partner again, remember that child support is for taking care of children and that there is more to taking care of children than money. It’s making sure that they have a safe and loving environment. Financial security is part of that, but so is having parents who care about them enough to put their differences aside. Your children will feel more secure if they believe that their parents’ problems are not their fault, and you, as the parents, will feel better, putting the bad feelings behind you, getting on with your lives and knowing that you are doing what’s best for your children.
Helene Opocensky was born in Germany and immigrated to the United States as a child. After college, she worked for many years in the child support department as an assistant attorney general for Connecticut.