April 2005 - Money
For most divorced families, custody and visitation were
set up simultaneously with child support. Because these things all have to do
with your child and where he or she lives, they are intertwined in your mind.
Somehow, you see them all as part of a package. But these two things should
not be seen as dependent on each other or related.
The truth is that the time your child spends with both of
you has nothing to do with child support. Custody is only the preliminary factor
in setting up child support. The non-custodial parent must pay it to the custodial
parent. But beyond that, what happens with your parenting plan has no impact
on child support.
Many parents believe that child support should somehow be
adjusted to account for time the child spends with the non-custodial parent.
After all, they reason, when the child is with that parent, he or she is in
charge of meeting the childís needs and if the non-custodial parent has the
child for an entire week in the summer, there shouldnít be any child support
being paid for that week. Wrong! It doesnít matter if the non-custodial parent
spends one day a week or 7 days a week with the child, child support is not
Child support is a set amount that only fluctuates when
it is increased or decreased by court order. The amount of time each of you
spends with your child does not affect it, unless you have a complete change
in custody, or go to a shared parenting plan where you each have equal time
with your child.
The way you share medical, educational, and other expenses
also does not change based on your parenting schedule, and if you are the one
that takes your child to the doctor and the other parent is the one who is responsible
for medical costs, he or she should reimburse you for the expense.
Another important point to remember is that a custodial
parent canít refuse or cut back on visitation if child support hasnít been paid.
Sometimes custodial parents feel as if this is an effective way of getting the
other parent to pay. It can definitely feel unfair to watch the other parent
get to be the fun parent in your childís eyes while he or she continues to shirk
financial responsibilities. It can be tempting to use visitation time as a weapon
since you know it is something that is important to the other parent and is
something that you can easily control. But your child needs time with the other
parent as well as financial support from him or her. Stopping one to get the
other isnít fair to your child. Nonpayment of child support has to be dealt
with through the courts and even if the other parent is a complete deadbeat
in terms of financial support, he or she still has an important role in your
childís life and should not be prevented from filling it.
It can be hard to keep parenting issues and money matters
separate, but doing so will allow you to prevent financial problems from interfering
with your relationships with your child.