Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Setting Child Support: Key Issues That Are Often Forgotten …Plan for everything!

You already know that child support is designed to help you pay for your child, and you're willing to go the extra mile to help ensure that they're supported fully. However, be very careful with what you agree to .. remember there will be no mercy if you become  ill or lose your job when paying child support. Make sure that you plan for the unexpected and do not become overzealous. Remember you will be able to do anything and everything "extra" for your children .. just don't commit with the court. Some parents and lawyers do not want to hear this but plan for the unexpected.

1. Unexpected medical expenses. Plan for the unexpected. Routine doctor's visits are one thing. If you prefer to pay a set amount to your child's other parent each month, you may prefer to cover regular medical expenses--routine dental visits, well check-ups, and so on--as part of your regular payments. Some medical expenses, however, can't be planned ahead of time. Make sure that you have a plan in place for how you will split those expenses. Don't forget about the potential for braces as your child gets older, broken bones and other accidents, and even long-term illnesses. Make it very clear that medical expenses are included in child support or that you will be responsible for a basic policy until the children turn 18. Now if you can afford more that is great … just don't agree to it up front because you will not be able to back track. If you lose your job or make less money there is no turning back.

2. Sports and other extracurricular activities. Plan for the unexpected. When children are small, sports expenses are typically incidental, unless you're raising a budding star. As your child ages, however, expenses associated with their favorite activities will increase. From that expensive summer camp to football gear, you want to make sure you're helping provide for your child to have the best possible experience, yet make it clear that this is why you pay child support. Of course, you can assist and help pay for these extracurricular activities but please do not allow a judge to tell you that you have to pay for this. Judges in general do not help co-parenting.

3. Academic expenses. Plan ahead and make it clear. When your child goes off to college, will you be helping to cover their tuition? Is your local public school problematic? What if your tiny child turns into a budding genius and requires a specialized school? Make sure you know how you're going to assist with academic expenses when they roll around, from that perfect preschool that works for both you and your child's other parent to their college tuition, books, and living expenses. You don't have to draw every detail out now, but it helps to at least have a general idea of what you'd like to do. Matter of fact .. do not commit to paying for college tuition. Some states require for parents to pay for college tuition; however, you should not commit past age 18. You do not know what will happen. Your kids may be alienated from you or they may decide to go to a university that you cannot afford. If you commit to pay to college then in 15 years when it is time to pay .. guess what you better pay even if you do not have a relationship with your kids. Now remember if you have a healthy co-parenting relationship there is no doubt that you will bend over backwards for your kids. You simply do not need a judge to tell you what to do.

4. Baby's first vehicle. If you're drawing up a custody agreement when your child is very young, their first car might not even enter your mind. Sooner or later, however, it's going to come up! Have a plan in mind for how you want to handle assisting with this expense. Be sure to include contingency plans for accidents, helping to cover car insurance, and car repairs.  Yes .. make it clear that you are not paying for a car or car insurance. You will pay for car insurance like any parent; however, you do not need a judge to tell you. So make it clear that you will make the decision when your child is of age and you make that decision. We need to stop adding to "entitlement" based on court orders.

Developing a child support plan is a long, complicated process that can't be written off to "X percent of your income" or "X dollars per month." As your child grows, there will be changes in their needs that necessitate a different style of child support, particularly if there are shifts in your income status. If you need help developing an effective child support plan, contact us for more information.