Are you a father who pays child support? If so, then you should be commended. It is not an easy situation to diligently pay child support to an ex-spouse or co-parent. You may feel like she is wasting the money, asking you for more every chance she gets, or is otherwise taking advantage of the situation. When it comes to child support, it can look like a straightforward situation at first. However, the reality of the situation is anything but simple. There are usually circumstances in your situation that make life more complex for you, your co-parent, and your children than initially meet the eye.
When child support is an issue in your family it is also most likely true that it is an emotionally taxing subject for you and your loved ones. There is something difficult about paying your ex-spouse or co-parent money after an arduous family law case. Having to do this can seem like adding insult to injury. Many of you fathers may feel like your custody and possessions schedule is not what it should be. Having to turn around and then pay money to the person who just “beat” you in the case when it comes to possession and access can make the situation seem even more frustrating.
If you find yourself in this kind of position and are frustrated on multiple grounds when it comes to child support, then the Law Office of Bryan Fagan is here to help you. There is a perspective that you can gain and knowledge that you can attain which will help keep in context these matters and help you work through them as you begin to figure out the ins and outs of child support in Texas. In the best of times, child support can function as a helping hand for your child. However, in the worst of times child support can seem like a punitive measure taken against fathers like you who try to do their best for their child but oftentimes end up facing some less-than-desirable circumstances when it comes to their finances and the payment of this type of support.
Do not assume that you have no options when it comes to child support if you lose your job. There are steps you can take both before, during, and after job loss that can protect you from liability and help ensure that your child is not going to go hungry or go without. This is what we are going to cover in today’s blog posts from the Law Office of Bryan Fagan. For those of you out there who have recently lost your job or are concerned about fluctuations in the job market then we have some information for you to consider. If you are interested in learning more about this subject or about how the Law Office of Bryan Fagan can assist you in this type of scenario, then please do not hesitate to reach out to our office today. We can arrange for you a free of charge consultation with one of our licensed family law attorneys.
Child support: it’s not just another bill
The tempting part about child support is that, in some ways, it can appear to be just another bill to your budget. When you are working and going about your normal activities, many people use child support as just another budget item. For example, even though valve support goes towards the support and care of your children, if you were to remove that label from your budget it may appear that child support is like any other expenditure that you have to make. Much of the reason for that is well it is pain. Every month, child support is paid out of your paycheck and into a registry with the Office of the Attorney General. This registry functions as an account both for you and your co-parent. The two of you can check the status of your accounts online through their website whatever you would like.
This is one of the surprising aspects of child support from the perspective of most mothers and fathers. The expectation is that child support will be paid directly from parent to parent. However, this is not how the system functions for most people. Parent-to-parent payments of child support are known as informal child support payments and do not officially count towards the child support code in your case. What this means on a practical level is that you should not consider making payments of child support directly to your co-parent. This is true even if he or she assures you that it is OK or even if the two of you have a great relationship. Once you have child support set up through the Office of the Attorney General you should make those payments as scheduled through their office.
Remember that child support is not just another bill or something for you to assign to your budget and then forget about it. Ultimately, you are responsible for ensuring that child support is paid. The Office of the Attorney General will facilitate payments, but they are not responsible for keeping up with everything for you. Therefore, you need to be the one who is on top of your payments and who can ensure that your support is received each month. When your child support is not received on time and in full you violate the court orders. This puts you in a position where you can potentially face subsequent legal cases involving child support such as an enforcement case.
Part of understanding the obligations associated with child support is to understand your court order. This should be your number one objective once you make it through your child custody or divorce case. It does not take much effort to locate the section of your court order that has to do with child support and then learn as much as you can about your obligation. Preferably, you should go through with this before the end of your case so that you can work with your attorney and can ask questions. It is well worth the time and money spent in discussing matters with your attorney whether it be at mediation, before signing final orders, or even after you have signed on the dotted line. Taking this opportunity to learn more about your court order will serve you well now and in the future. In many cases, you can avoid the blunders down the line simply by learning the court order before you enter your life after the family law case.
One of the key points to make in this regard is to ensure that all aspects of your court order are clear and understandable. This is especially true for a subject like child support where you and your co-parent will interact frequently. When you have such a big responsibility like paying support that goes towards your children each month then you ought to make sure that you understand what your responsibilities are. A huge part of this equation is understanding the court order and making sure that the orders are well-written and easy to understand.
Work with your attorney as you close out your family law case. Use the opportunity that you have to ask questions and give feedback about the order that is being drafted. Remember that it is not your attorney who is responsible for paying child support. Rather, you are going to be the one who is charged with this major responsibility. Talk with your attorney about the language used in your order and ensure that you understand every word that is written. The more you understand your responsibility and the process involved with paying child support the better equipped you will be in your post-family case life to make sure that you are meeting the obligation handed down to you.
Child support and job loss
When you have a set income and are on top of your child support it can seem like this is a subject that is not at the top of your mind on most days. The payments come out of your paycheck each month on the same date in the same amount. You can check your account each month at the same time to make sure your payment went through and there are no issues as far as that is concerned. Once you make sure of this you can move on to the next thing in your life. This is one of the nice things about child support with a court order. That being there are not many surprises when it comes to how much you owe in any given month. For many fathers, this has not always been the case. Your child’s mother may have changed the amount of child support that needed to be paid each month which could make it difficult from a budgeting perspective. Not knowing how much child support you would be expected to pay is a major benefit of going through the courts when it comes to this important subject.
This is something that I would impress upon any father reading this blog post to his apprehensive about paying child support through the courts. Yes, there is a formal expectation now regarding how much support you are obligated to pay each month however, it is not as punitive as you might think in that you are not going to be asked to pay more in support each month just because the needs of your child may vary or your co-parent may have an increased need for whatever reason. She is stuck receiving the amount that you have been ordered to pay in the same way that you are stuck paying the amount that you are ordered to pay. That is, at least until someone can come back and modify the child support order in the future.
However, when it comes to paying child support the ease of a child support order and the predictability of it can be difficult when you have experienced job loss. Without a doubt, job loss is not something that is a foreign subject for most of us. Just about everyone will find themselves in a position where they lose their income at least temporarily because of a sudden job loss. Most of the time, we can piece together a workable budget while we figure out the next steps that we can take in our lives as far as meeting our monthly obligations. That doesn’t mean that it will be easy to do so but it certainly means that it is possible.
The main question that we ask ourselves during these times is how we are going to pay the bills that are most important to us. Sometimes, we do not have enough wiggle room in our makeshift budget to ensure that all bills are paid. It is at that point where we tend to focus our energy on the bills that are most important period those bills would include food, shelter, utilities, and in your case child support. When you have child support obligations that means that this is a bill that you must be aware of as you plan out your day and map out a budget while you are working through a job loss. It doesn’t mean that you are always going to struggle to pay child support. What it does mean is that for this. In your life, you need to spend time focusing your energy on ensuring that your children are cared for and that this line item and your budget are not treated just like any other responsibility that you have. Not only does it affect your children, but it carries with it consequences from a legal standpoint that you will not encounter with your utilities or even your rent.
When you find yourself in a position where you are concerned about losing your employment and have a responsibility to pay child support then you should talk with your co-parent as soon as possible. It does not matter what your relationship is like with her, although it certainly helps if you have a good one. Do not assume that she is going to immediately head to court the minute you talk about falling behind a month or two in child support. Ideally, you will have an emergency fund that can help you pay child support if you lose your job and temporarily lose your income. However, we know from experience at the Law Office of Bryan Fagan that this is not necessarily going to be the case.
Losing your income or losing your job for any reason is not a defense for the failure to pay child support. This may strike you as unfair and on many levels it may be. However, this means that you should be focusing on what your major responsibilities are when it comes to paying support. That means ensuring that you can pay all the child support obligations that you have each month if not a part of it. If you are falling behind in child support, it is best to make an effort to pay as much as you can each month. Even a partial payment of child support is better than making no payment at all.
So, talk with your co-parent about your job loss or expected job loss as soon as the situation allows for it. The two of you may be able to work on a plan where this schedule can be mapped out and where you can pay off any owed amount of child support as quickly as possible. At least communicating to her the fact that you are going to be behind in child support can show her that you are making a good-faith effort to be honest and upfront about the situation that you are facing.
One of the major concerns that many parents have with job losses regaining the income that they used to earn. Many parents have found that their income never recovers after a job loss. In that case, you may need to come back to court and request a modification of the child support that you pay. The material and substantial change experienced by you as far as your income being decreased because of job loss could find that a judge reduces the amount of child support that you are obligated to pay. This is a situation where you are better off working with an attorney and trying to go it alone.
Child support does not have to be a scary situation to find yourself in. Understanding your court orders, being diligent with communication, and then working with your co-parent on avoiding miscommunication are all steps you can take both now and, in the future, to avoid issues even in the event of a job loss.
Questions about the material contained in today’s blog post? Contact the Law Office of Bryan Fagan
If you have any questions about the material contained in today’s blog post please do not hesitate to contact the Law Office of Bryan Fagan. Our licensed family law attorneys offer free-of-charge consultations six days a week in person, over the phone, and via video. These consultations are a great way for you to learn more about the world of Texas family law as well as about how your family circumstances may be impacted by the filing of a divorce or child custody lawsuit.