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Your Child Is Not a Paycheck

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What you need to know about child support.

child with a piggy bank

Danielle Hoston: It's a known fact that the vast majority of non-custodial parents are fathers, and with Father's Day around the corner, I thought I'd venture into every father's favorite money topic ... child support. We've all heard of the "deadbeat dads" who deserve every bit of the bad rap they get, so this week I decided to take a closer look at how child support guidelines are determined, where the flaws are, and whether or not they are fair. Here's what you need to know to make a decision.

Income Shares Model
The most commonly used model for child support is the Income Shares model. It is based on the concept that the child should receive the same proportion of parental income that he or she would have received if the parents lived together. Although each state has its own guidelines, the formula generally combines the parents' income and then multiplies it by a particular percentage (based on the number of children) to arrive at a support obligation. This number is divided in half and the non-custodial parent will be obligated to pay it.

As a California native who has heard countless nightmare stories about child support, I was surprised to learn that Massachusetts is actually one of the most notorious states for "unfair" child support guidelines. In the state of Massachusetts, non-custodial parents can have a standard of living that is as much as 40% lower than that of an equally earning custodial parent and still be required to pay their half.

How is this possible?
Child support calculations do not take into consideration the tax benefits that custodial parents receive. Child support is not deductible for the non-custodial parent, and is not taxed as income for the custodial parent. Therefore, the non-custodial parent is responsible for all taxes (federal, state, local, social security, and FICA) on the paid child support. Furthermore, in most cases, only the custodial parent can claim the tax exemptions, tax credits, and take advantage of the lower tax rate for "head of household" filing status. Additionally, non-custodial parents often have expenses of their own (travel/transportation, extra clothes, etc.) related to the care of their child(ren) that are not accounted for in the initial calculation of child support.

Once the child support amount is determined, many fathers question how the child support is being spent. In California, it is assumed that child support received is being spent on the child. In at least 10 states (CO, DE, FL, IN, LA, MO, NE, OK, OR, and WA), however, non-custodial parents can demand a full accounting of expenses and spending of child support from custodial parents.

Deadbeat Moms ... and Dads
In my humble opinion, men that don't work, barely work, or hide their money in order to reduce their child support are disgusting. On the other hand, mothers who don't work, barely work, or inflate their children's expenses in order to turn their child support into a paycheck are pretty disgusting as well. They are equally "deadbeat" and the system should address child support guidelines accordingly.

I'd like to wish the happiest of Father's Days to my father and to the fathers who are paying their child support and lovingly raising their children. I'd also like to encourage both mothers and fathers to genuinely consider the best interests of their children when it comes to the use and payment of child support. A fair agreement on these matters can be the greatest step in the right direction for parents who are separated and help them toward a path of successful joint parenting.

Do you believe that current child support guidelines are fair or unfair? If you receive or pay child support, is the amount correct, too high, or too low?

next: Movie Night Without Breaking the Bank
57 comments so far | Post a comment now
sob3r June 18, 2009, 1:19 AM

Holly, You need a Sam’ Club or a Costco card. Where are you buying all that expensive formula and diapers? 7-11?

st8up June 18, 2009, 1:23 AM

seriously, my ex wife was never good with money. She thought the money was there as long as we had checks. My kids told me on one of my “visits” mom is so happy - she’s getting her “beer check” soon. Upon further questioning the “beer check” happened to be the hilarious name she came up with for the child support check…what a mom!

Leslie June 18, 2009, 9:17 AM

sob3r - If I calculate mortgage, utilities, childcare, groceries, and my daughters 2 extra activities, 25% of that is $600/month. Thats not factoring in all of the other random CHILD expenses that come up, or anything “luxury” like buying clothes, driving, health insurance, etc.. So as a parent, you wouldn’t expect to pay for a 1/4 of what is costs to raise a child? In my opinion, you should be prepared to pay 1/3 of your child’s expenses.

Leslie June 18, 2009, 9:18 AM

MM Alexander - “and we all know most of you aint spending $860 per month on a child” Really? Child support isn’t meant to only pay lunch money and baby sitters. Kids needs a place to live, water, heat, etc. Perhaps you forgot that, or maybe you pay $300 a month in rent with utilities included. I think anyone can MANAGE to live on anything, but I personally have no reason to deprive my kids of “extra” because their NCP might decide he can rent a room, ride a bicycle, and eat.

Leslie June 18, 2009, 9:20 AM

MS - “Sure there are dads who need to be ordered to pay CS but the vast majority of dads would pay anyway.” The VAST majority?! The vast majority who are court ordered to pay (i.e., could be jailed if they don’t pay) don’t pay! The main reason many courts started having mandatory garnishments is because NCP’s weren’t paying. I agree that some would pay, but by far, most wouldn’t, and don’t.

Dusty jones June 18, 2009, 6:39 PM

I do beleive that there are dead beat mothers, how ever it is also up to the dad to be responiable. when picking the mothers of his off spring. As s single mothers who as never received childsupport. fathers should have to support there children, but shouldn’t have to pay if the mothers has other children by another relationship.the courts can be hard on the good dads for the bad ones thats not fair. once again be responsiable who you give your offsprings to, that gos to the ladys too….

Concern 1 July 16, 2009, 12:49 PM

All, this is a case of abuse from the lawmakers to the Judges, clearly its about money, the Mothers don’t give a dam if the kids have a relationship with the Father or not, and the courts already show that commen sense isn’t used in law, the road we are on is set to crash, fathers are tired of being railroaded, California is the worst when it comes to Child Support, Mothers are using the courts to do their dirty work.

Megan July 18, 2009, 10:56 PM

First of all, as we ALL know child support varies from state to state and from each individual situation. Now the term “deadbeat dads and moms” don’t just refer to money and child support. A TRUE deadbeat parent isn’t there for the child in ANY way, shape, or form. They don’t care about anything/one other than themselves. I haven’t received ANY support money since Jan 21 of this year and I don’t expect to see it. It would be nice and if I did get it I’d be able to afford a better bed and more reliable car for my son. However, if my son’s father was present in his life, visiting every week and helping him grow, than the money issue wouldn’t bother me because the most important thing to a child is showing you care!

Denn July 28, 2009, 5:39 PM

It seems that my brushes with the child support system have given me the impression that it’s all too often a weapon against non-custodial parents.

I’ve been a single parent, twice, and discovered what it’s like to be on both ends of support enforcement. The results of my experience, is that I declined support, from my ex. I didn’t want to be responsible for bankrupting her, and making my son worry about her well being.

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KB January 14, 2010, 8:07 PM

My husband has been royally screwed by an emotionally disturbed ex-wife and the people’s republic of Washington state. He is paying $1680. in child support, and is ordered to pay 70% of all activities (swimming, soccer, anything else mom feels like signing up for) and medical, and when they start driving—car insurance, the cars themselves,and the list goes on. The state used my tax deductions to figure his income (me, my daughter, my graduate school tuition, my business loss, etc.) In addition WA lowered his parenting time from 40% to 19% for no reason other than a disturbed CP who calls the police and reports the kids kidnaped during visitation, etc.(How do you kidnap children when they are at your home for visitation??) The police have blown her off, but the courts eat up her craziness and lies. I used to think that the courts were fair, but my eyes have been opened to the sadness that many children are exposed to when one parent is more concerned about punishing the other than about the chilren’s actual well-being.

Ralph Molina March 20, 2010, 2:31 PM

Domestic relations should take into consideration that if the NCP does have to pay child support, the state should take into consideration bills like utilities and a shelter and food, without this you die and no money for the child then, if no car how do I travel to work if there’s no transportation and I have to make payments on my car. They must modify all this child support law. What if you are driven into divorce because of infidelity and you do not want to be with that woman palying around with diferent men.

dontknowwhy May 19, 2010, 12:42 PM

Our award was $230 wkly, plus 1/2 of childcare & out of pocket expenses for 2 children. The NCP was always claiming I can’t afford it all.. so he decided to stop sending payments.. It has been 9 months and am receiving the awarded amount+arrears thanks to the help of enforcement. If you couldn’t afford payment on our 2 children.. WHY get your girlfriend pregnant?? Support for the first two will not go away?? (Which was his thoughts)

thurman99buc July 21, 2010, 3:50 PM

hi there everybody! i am new to this board… going to read up a little bit. any suggestions where to start?

What the Heck September 1, 2010, 6:28 AM

Child support is a racket plain and simple. It PROMOTES divorce and fatherless-ness! It gives a woman the green light to have a kid, divorce the father and collect money for the next umpteen years down the road! IT makes it impossible to negotiate custody for PURE reasons of love and replaces it with monetary gain!!! Anyone who believes in Child Support like a religion is a communist money hungry pig!
Who wants to give up custody when money is involved?? It’s cheaper to keep the kids…and kick the husband out on the street!!! (…then get married again and keep getting paid…)

What the Heck September 1, 2010, 6:37 AM

If the father is absent in a child’s life… it’s because the woman either starts too many fights when he pulls up to the yard for visitation or he is behind is “extortion” support payments…. Statistics show that the woman is the one that gets in the way of the man continuing to be in the child’s life.
… it’s safer to marry an Asian woman, at least you have a fighting chance….before she is brainwashed by the Westernized system of oppressing fathers!!!

Elaine December 21, 2010, 11:22 PM

The child support system is broken no matter how you slice it. Custodial parents, mothers or fathers, are allowed to extort money from their exes in the name of “the best interest of the children.” Non-custodial parents are threatened with jail, losing passports and driver licenses if they don’t pay up. Non-custodial parents are also subject to having their children hate them because they “abandoned” them. If the NCP moves on to a better life, remarries and has anymore children, they have their names dragged across the mud for “having the nerve” to have more children.

The reason I know all this so well is that I am one of those non-custodial parents. My children hate me, because my ex and his wife are always badmouthing me, online, and in person, but tell me that they are not, even when I see it firsthand. I moved on with my life and had another child, and I’m happy with my husband, which makes them badmouth me even more. If I do see my children, it’s only to be verbally attacked by my ex or his new wife, but they say that it’s my fault I don’t see the children.

They found a typo in the divorce decree that caused me to owe more child support than I was supposed to pay, and the judge upheld the typo, saying it was too late to change by the time it was noticed. As a result, I was behind on child support before I even started. Now I’m trying to catch up my arrears with the threat of jail breathing down my neck if I’m ever late on a payment.

Many people’s advice is to get a good lawyer, but if I could afford a good lawyer, he wouldn’t have custody of my children in the first place. With what I’ve learned about the child support system, I wouldn’t ask for more than enough child support to pay off my arrears if I were to get custody, because I wouldn’t wish this battle on my worst enemy, and he is my worst enemy. Actually, now his wife is because she treats me worse than he does, and he doesn’t treat me very well, which is why we’re divorced.

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