16 Apr Child Support Isn’t Just a Formula: Understanding How an Attorney Can Help
Many people going through a divorce or child custody situation in which child support is involved think that the support amount is determined by the courts through a formula, and that both parties have no choice but to accept the outcome. However, this is only half true.
Depending on your state, there likely is a specific worksheet that the courts use to determine the initial child support obligation. Influencing factors include: how much both parents have been making, including any bonuses or overtime pay; health insurance costs, out-of-pocket medical expenses, any childcare expenses; and who gets the federal tax exemption. Once all these numbers have been plugged into the worksheet, it provides an initial amount for the child support.
In almost every case, at least one party is unhappy with the outcome, but it’s at this point that most simply throw their hands in the air and start muttering about the family courts. Rant if you must, but if you believe that the child support obligation is unfair or failed to take into consideration extenuating circumstances, take action.
Your family law attorney is an invaluable resource when it comes to understanding your child support and how, if at all, it may be subject to change. Schedule an appointment to go over the papers from the child support enforcement agency and make sure you understand where the figures for each line came from. For example, overtime and bonuses are usually averaged out based on the past couple of years Data entry is subject to human error, and it never hurts to take another look over the numbers and make sure they match up with your expectations. If your attorney can’t provide you with a list of factors that warrant an adjustment or makes you feel like you are asking stupid questions, you need another attorney.
In most states, you can request an administrative or court hearing to petition for an adjustment to the initial obligation. You may not be required to have legal representation at these hearings, but you should. Your lawyer is familiar with the judges and proceedings involved in these cases and can walk your through the process. This doesn’t guarantee you will get the outcome you want, but gathering information and understanding your options helps you make an informed decision moving forward.