Jumping into the middle of a child support case, whether you are the parent who receives or pays child support, is not easy. Not only is child support a somewhat complicated topic as far as the actual law itself is concerned but it is an emotionally challenging subject. There is something about paying money to your child’s other parent or receiving money from your co-parent that adds a degree of emotional and relational stress. It would be great if you understood as much as possible before entering one of these cases so that there were no points of confusion or minimum reason for disagreement between you and your child’s other parent. With that said, we can discuss some tips and tricks for you that can help place you in a better position to be able to do what is best for your child.
#1: The best interests of your child matter
It is easy to get caught up in all the different issues associated with child support and then lose sight of the one that matters the most. Ultimately, what you are doing going through a child support case is trying to find a solution to a problem that can impact your child acutely. That problem would be associated with your child not being able to have the things that he or she needs as far as their daily life is concerned. This does not necessarily mean that your child is going to be able to live a certain lifestyle or have everything that he or she has ever dreamed of. However, what it does mean is that your child will be able to live a lifestyle that allows him or her to attend school, and have sufficient food and a place to live.
Before we can get into our discussion of child support you need to understand what your child specifically needs. What your child needs will not be the same as the child down the street and vice versa. Different children have different needs based on their medical condition, educational needs and so much more. When you think about child support you cannot simply look to the guidelines outlined in the Texas Family Code and then assume that these will work out well for your child. There is a chance that they may but if your child does have a special need he or she must have those needs considered when determining child support. Here are some of the ways that you can think about the needs of your child when negotiating child support in a child custody or divorce case.
If your child has a special medical need then you should determine whether that special medical need requires care beyond what health insurance can provide. Uninsured or uncovered medical costs can add up quickly depending upon the specific situation your child finds him or herself in. Over and above the amount of child support that is paid you and your co-parent may need to discuss how uninsured or uncovered medical costs are going to be divided between the two of you. Many families ultimately agree to split the costs between parents. If your incomes are somewhat similar, then a 50/50 split may make sense for you all. However, if you and your spouse have greatly differing levels of income then having these uninsured medical costs divided in a way that correlates to your income makes sense, as well.
Either way, you need to be intentional about how you consider these uninsured costs when determining child support. The more specific you can be as far as the plan that you have the better for you, your co-parent, and your child. If you cannot be specific in your child support orders, then you are putting yourself in a position where you and your co-parent are going to need to discuss these issues on the fly with one another. This may work well for some families but if you and your co-parent do not have a good working relationship then constantly communicating about how medical costs are going to be divided can be a challenge.
Fortunately, you do not have to necessarily talk to your co-parent every waking hour about their specific thoughts on how to make child support work. On the contrary, the two of you can work together during your family law case to make sure that the needs of your child are addressed. For example, if there are going to be uninsured medical costs that come up regularly then the parent who initially encouraged the bill can have up to 30 days to bring that bill to the attention of the other parent and begin the process of paying it. You can coordinate how bills are to be paid, how long a parent has to pay a bill after initially viewing it, and other details that can come up. This may all seem tedious at the moment, but it can save a great deal of time, money, and stress during your life. The more you can sort through during your actual family law case the better off you will be in most situations. Parents who leave it to chance and assume that everything will work out for the best after the case is over are usually signing up for a more difficult situation than otherwise would have to be.
You can speak with an experienced family law attorney with the Law Office of Bryan Fagan if you have concerns over considering the best interest of your child during a family law case. When it comes to child support there are many moving pieces for you to think through. That doesn’t mean that these are problems that you cannot solve or that are insurmountable. However, it often does take a team of people to help you accomplish what you need to and achieve the goals that you have set out for yourself and your family. The attorneys with the Law Office of Bryan Fagan are here to help you think about goals and achieve them in the context of a child support case.
#2: Child support has more than meets the eye
On the surface, child support is a subject that can appear relatively simple. You determine the net monthly income of the parent who pays child support, you count the number of children before the court and then you multiply a percentage based on those number of children against the net monthly income to determine the amount of child support that is paid. While this is a simple method for calculating child support it may not end up being how child support is determined in your specific case.
The reason for this is that, like in any family law case, the facts and circumstances of your situation matter a great deal. This means that you cannot necessarily take what another person did in their child custody case and say that is how your case is going to work, as well. Rather, you need to consider what the needs are of your family and what those best interests are and then use that to help determine child support in your situation.
At the end of the case, your success in child support will be determined in large part by the plan that you create and the thought that you put into the subject. Ignoring child support carries with it a certain degree of risk and a foreseeable event that will not be in the best interest of your child. Do not look at child support as being a subject that can be thought about for a moment and then disregarded. Rather, the more intentional you can be about having a plan and the more specific you can make the plan when it comes to your family the better of everyone will be in the long run.
#3: Be prepared to negotiate
One of the great misnomers about child support cases in Texas is that if you file a divorce or child custody case then undoubtedly your case will end up going before a family court judge. I think the main reason for this is that we see so much in movies and television shows involving family law matters which involve the parties going before judges with great frequency. Although it is a possibility that you and your co-parent may have to go before a family court judge it is not the norm in these situations.
On the contrary, most of the time in a family law case, involving child support or any other subject for that matter, you and your co-parent are more likely to settle your case through negotiation than through litigation. This means that you need to be prepared to work with your co-parent to the greatest extent possible on child support-related matters. It doesn’t matter if the two of you have a great relationship, a bad relationship, or something in between. What matters in your situation is that the two of you need to be willing to work together to determine what is in the best interest of your child and then act on those best interests. The more you can think about your case from this perspective the better the ultimate determination will be for everyone involved especially your child.
If you and your co-parent are unable to negotiate through the issues of your case together then you will almost certainly be ordered to attend mediation. Mediation involves the two of you hiring a neutral, third-party mediator to help you arrive at a settlement in your case. It could be that the two of you are relatively close on a settlement but just need mediation to help iron out any formalities or final details. Or, you may be far apart in settling your case and instead need the mediator to be able to work hard at helping you come together. In any event, working with an experienced family-long mediator can be just what you need to help your family begin to sort out the differences you have regarding child support.
One of the positive aspects of negotiating child support is that because this is a money issue there is usually some middle ground that can be found between you and your co-parent. It does not always work this way in family law that there is a straightforward middle ground between your position and that of your co-parent. However, splitting the difference between the two child support figures that are being negotiated is an option for you and your co-parent to consider. However, you need to be sure that what you are doing is in the best interest of your child and that it’s something that will work in the long term for your family.
#4: The details matter
No matter what your opinion is when it comes to child support you need to know in advance that the details of your case do matter. The more detailed you can be when it comes to negotiation the more likely you are to find a co-parent who is willing to work with you and discuss the case in full. If you come to the negotiation table and are making requests of your co-parent but have no specific information to go off then it is reasonable for your co-parent to be less than excited at the prospect of negotiating with you.
Rather, if you can come to negotiations with specific information and be prepared to share that information in terms of why you believe what you believe regarding child support then you can help your co-parents see the case from your perspective and may be able to help convince your parent that your position is correct. Ultimately, what this means in the long run is that you need to be intentional about how you negotiate the case. Have a plan and work with your experienced family law attorney to execute your vision on that plan. Coming together with your lawyer the day before mediation or a settlement conference is not a wise idea. The more diligent you can be about preparing for your case the more likely.
For instance, if you believe that your child needs a higher than guidelines level amount of child support then you should be prepared to show why you believe that’s the case. It is usually not good enough to simply state an opinion during negotiations. You need to have some facts and evidence to support your contention. Otherwise, you risk alienating your co-parent which can affect how long your case persists and the type of support that your child ultimately receives.
#5: Try to get it right the first time
In a child support case, like any other family law case, there is the opportunity to file subsequent lawsuits if your initial lawsuit does not go according to plan. For instance, let’s suppose that circumstances change, and you need to modify the amount of child support that you are receiving. Or, if your co-parent refuses to pay child support you may need to come back and file an enforcement case. In any event, you should know that there are opportunities to come back and address the issues of child support if something is left unsaid the first time around or if there are problems that develop subsequently.
However, you need to know that you should try if at all possible to do everything you can to make sure that the case goes according to plan the first time around. While there are opportunities to fix mistakes and address inconsistencies later your best bet is to do so in the initial child support case. This will save time, money, and stress as far as how you can address the problems. Do not assume that you will be able to come back and improve your situation when it comes to child support later. Put your best foot forward now.
Doing this on a practical level means that you should research the issues thoroughly, prepare evidence, have a game plan, and then work to execute that game plan at every turn. Do not miss opportunities to work with your co-parent towards a negotiated settlement. Take mediation seriously. Be willing to find a middle ground if that middle ground is suitable for your child and for you. Hiring an experienced family law attorney is a great way to ensure that you take advantage of your first child support case so there doesn’t need to be a second or third.
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