Regardless of your marital status, if you are a father, chances are you want to provide for your child. You want to be able to give them a better life than you had and give them the comforts that other children enjoy.
You want to be able to give them the birthday parties that they deserve, the food they need to grow up to be healthy and strong, the clothes that they need, the school supplies that they need, and so much more.
Whether you are a divorced father or an unmarried father, child support is a part of your reality, if deemed your responsibility by the courts. The courts saw you as the parent with the higher income and assigned you the responsibility of financially supporting your shared child.
As simple as that sounds in theory, it can sometimes be more complicated. Due to the gender stereotypes that pervade the family court system, the courts may look at you and decide that you are paying child support entirely based on the fact that you are the father without even considering your financial circumstances.
You may not have the higher income. You may be saddled with debt, as well as high alimony payments. You may be in a better position to be the custodial parent that your child needs. These all are issues that men face in a family court system that is slow to reform.
The month of August is Child Support Awareness Month. Each state observes the month as a time when parents who work hard to make sure that the needs of their children are met are celebrated. The 2018 theme is “They don’t need perfect. They just need you.”
For some parents, like Vinny V., a child support obligor who has been working with the Sacramento County Department of Child Support Services for years, the awareness raised by the month not only helped him take steps forward in providing for his daughter, but also helped forge a better co-parenting relationship with his daughter’s mother.
“In the beginning, a lot of my questions were about where the money was going and how it was being spent,” he said to the Sacramento County Department of Child Support Services. “Now I understand that that doesn’t really matter as long as my child is being taken care of. It’s great that [Sacramento County DCSS can] help us as parents avoid the constant debate and power play that goes along with money.”
It is not just in Sacramento County. All across the country, departments of child support services are helping parents with the child support process. As a father, you want to make sure that the money you are paying in child support is fair and is being spent on the betterment of your child.
You can find yourself in a difficult situation, depending on the amount that you are responsible for paying in child support, the duration of the payments, and your current financial circumstances.
Many in your situation pursue modification. The purpose of child support is to support your child, and you cannot support your child if your payments are sending you into poverty. Not being able to afford payments that are outside of your financial means does not make you a deadbeat dad, and you should not face any type of stigma for going through the modification process.
This is why it is important that you partner with a family law attorney that understands what men and fathers go through during the divorce experience and are able to help with any modifications that need to be made to the decree.
The month not only spotlights the child support process, but the changes being employed across the country to the process, in order to make it better.
Ohio’s new law
Ohio Governor John Kasich recently signed a bill into law, reforming the child support system in the state. The law utilizes updated economic data for the calculation of orders for families with a combined income of up to $300,000, which is an increase from the previous $150,000. The law also will account for shared parenting time and take in to consideration parental contributions for medical expenses and health care coverage.
The law also will establish a “self-sufficiency reserve” to make sure low-income parents do not face child support orders that they cannot afford and a cap to allowable credit given for child care expenses. This is so that low-income child support payors are limited to sharing half of the child care costs.
It also changes the minimum child support order to $80 a month, which is an increase from the current $50 minimum, and it will allow state workers to update the child support formula tables, as opposed to needing lawmakers to approve any updates.
The bill, Senate Bill 179, states that the court may order either parent or both parents to pay any amount reasonable for the support of a child, without regards to marital misconduct. This is after the court considers relevant factors to the end of the marriage, as well as the financial state of both parents.
It also states that in determining the amount to be ordered for support of a child, the incarceration of a parent may not be considered to be voluntarily unemployed. The bill also sets guidelines regarding modification, stating that a court may modify the child support order or approve a proposed modification, without holding a hearing if a petition to modify child support order based on incarceration of a party is filed, and after receiving notice, no party files an objection or request for a hearing within 30 days.
Many other states have attempted to reform the child support system, only for votes not to be passed within state legislatures. While it is important to recognize the work that child support services do in helping facilitate the child support dynamics across the country, it is equally as important to recognize the improvements that can be done to the child support and child custody process as a whole.
As a father, you want to be an active parent in your child’s life, offering them the financial support that they need within your means, but that financial support should not be indefinite. As unpopular as it can sometimes be with the receiving parent, ending the process at an appropriate age allows for financial recovery for the paying parent.
The child support process does not have to pit two parents against one another. The well-being of the child is what is most important, and the child’s well-being is determined by both parents communicating and working on the child support process together.
Dan Pearce is an Online Editor for Lexicon, focusing on subjects related to the legal services of customers, Cordell & Cordell and Cordell Planning Partners. He has written countless pieces on MensDivorce.com, detailing the plight of men and fathers going through the divorce experience, as well as the issues seniors and their families experience throughout the estate planning journey on ElderCareLaw.com. Mr. Pearce has managed websites and helped create content, such as the Men’s Divorce Newsletter and the YouTube series, “Men’s Divorce Countdown.” He also has been a contributor on both the Men’s Divorce Podcast and ElderTalk with Joe Cordell.
Mr. Pearce assisted in fostering a Cordell Planning Partners practice area specific for Veterans, as they deal with the intricacies of their benefits while planning for the future. He also helped create the Cordell Planning Partners Resource Guide and the Cordell Planning Partners Guide to Alternative Residence Options, specific for seniors with questions regarding their needs and living arrangements.