If you are a parent who has been through the family law courts in Texas and has been ordered to pay child support then you likely have two feelings about the support (at least two feelings, that is). First of all, you are glad to be able to help ensure that your child will never “go without.” Food, shelter, clothing etc. are the bare necessities of life and by you paying whatever it is that you pay per month to your child’s other parent who are helping to make sure that none of these are ever lacking in your child’s life. On the other hand, you’re not a huge fan of paying the child support because the money goes directly to your child’s other parent with whom you do not have a great relationship. How can you trust where this money is being spent? Where does it actually go?
I’ve had more than one client in the past ask me these type of questions. I’ve even had people ask me if there is any way for us to work into final orders some language that requires their ex-spouse to prove that the money is being spent on their child. In theory this is reasonable, but in practice it would be nearly impossible to be able to verify these things. I know this is not a satisfying answer to give but it is the truth.
So what’s the next best thing? Can you be sure of what your child support goes towards every month when it is taken out of your paycheck and sent magically to your ex-spouse? Maybe not, but in today’s blog post from the Law Office of Bryan Fagan, PLLC we can at least discuss with you what child support covers and what it does not.
Frustrating requests for money; Aren’t you already paying for that?
Suppose that you have recently come out of a divorce and agreed to pay 20% of your net monthly income for your elementary aged daughter in child support. Not a problem, you thought. You would pay more. In fact- between the official child support, the money you spend on her during your periods of possession and the little “extras” that you pay towards invariably each month you figure you’re paying well beyond your “fair share.” You heard your ex wife’s attorney use that phrase a lot in hearings and in messages relayed from her to your attorney- “fair share.” So the way you see it, you’re doing quite a bit to support your little girl.
Well, that’s what you thought, at least. One day you come home from work and check your personal emails and see that your ex-wife has sent you a message. It seems that your daughter has landed a spot today on a club soccer team that travels all across the great state of Texas. With that travel comes hotel accommodations, new uniforms, spending money and other costs that are inherent in such pursuits. You’ve always supported your daughter playing soccer- both financially and otherwise.
The kicker (no pun intended) of the email comes at the very end, where your ex-wife asks you to pay an additional $300 per month to her (of course) to help foot the bill for the costs of club soccer. You’re now in the unenviable position of either paying this money or not paying it and breaking your child’s heart. Before you put fingers to keyboard to form a response you begin to wonder just what your child support goes to support, anyways. Your daughter goes to her grandparents’ house after school so there are no costs of daycare. She’s healthy as a horse and only sees the doctor for a yearly check-up. So why should you pay any more money in what is essentially an extension of child support? Doesn’t what you already pay more than cover those sort of costs?
What child support does not cover
Child support in Texas does not cover the costs of uninsured medical expenses, educational expenses and extracurricular activities. As I mentioned at the outset of this blog post, the necessities of life are covered by child support. Food, clothing and shelter are what the child support goes towards.
So, as it turns out the money you send each month in child support does not go towards things like club soccer expenses. The general theory of child support isn’t what you’re necessarily thinking, either. Child support is essentially paid in order to allow you to pool your money and your ex-spouse’s money as a means to care for your child. Child support is intended to equalize the burden of financially raising a child given that you are in possession of your child basically 45% of any given month while your ex-spouse has her the remaining portion.
Future costs of parenting a child are an unknown
The tricky part of calculating child support is that every child is created differently. Their needs, their wants, etc. are all unknown to the State of Texas. In creating the guideline percentages for child support the State of Texas acknowledges that these are a guide for what it takes to raise a child in Texas, all things being equal. What you’re learning through the above experience is that this estimate does not include club soccer costs.
What you can do is keep an eye on what your child needs from you during your periods of possession. For example, if your child is needing new clothes, toiletries and other essentials every weekend that she sees you then that is a problem. While you are happy to pay for these items, your child support is tailored to take care of them. If you believe that you paying for things like this is getting out of hand it is smart to speak to your ex-wife about it.
So where does this leave you? It is up to you to determine if you are willing to spend this money on your child. Unless, of course, it isn’t
Read through your Divorce Decree in order to be certain of what you do and do not have to pay
Some parents will negotiate into their divorce decree provisions that require ex-spouses to assist in paying certain bills or expenses for their children. In the situation that we have been discussing in today’s blog post you should make certain that you are not on the hook to pay for extracurricular expenses. Most divorce decrees do not contain orders like this but you need to make absolutely sure. If you are wrong and do not pay the money as requested you could find yourself in a courtroom answering an Enforcement lawsuit.
In the event that you are not forced by a court order to pay this money, you just need to make a decision for yourself whether or not you are willing/able to pay for whatever expense is being asked of you. When you were married it was a decision that you and your spouse would make together. As a single person it is your call as to whether or not you will be financially supporting this endeavor.
If nothing else you can attempt to negotiate the amount with your ex-spouse to determine if you can fulfill another responsibility if you are not able to pay the additional sum of money. Maybe you can provide transportation to away games that are played in neighboring towns? Be willing to discuss the issue and be as receptive as you can towards offers to settle the subject.
Question on child support and divorce? Contact the Law Office of Bryan Fagan, PLLC
If you have any questions about child support please contact the Law Office of Bryan Fagan, PLLC today. We offer free of charge consultations with our licensed family law attorneys six days a week. Our attorneys and staff take a great deal of pride in representing clients from our community and helping them to achieve their goals. From Baytown to Galveston and on up to The Woodlands our office represents and advocates for people of all sorts who have diverse interests and goals. Thank you for your time and interest in today’s blog post topic.