Common Misconceptions about Child Support

Interviewer: What are some common misconceptions people have about child support that you’ve noticed?

The Child Support Figure Cannot Be Arbitrarily Amended because of Extra Activities the Children Are Involved with

Paul Tafelski: I think some people think that overtime won’t be included or bonuses won’t be included. Or, that some extra-curricular activities can be added on that can’t be such as sports fees or equipment fees and things like that. You can’t just keep going back and asking for more money. Most people who receive the support are limited by that amount of support unless they can get the other parent to voluntarily contribute to other extra-curricular activities.

Child Support Is Calculated by a Computer Program and Does Not Favor One Party over the Other

Interviewer: Are they viewing child support as something that’s a little bit more equal rather than leaning towards the mother?

Paul Tafelski: Child support is just a computer program. You put the data in and it tells you what the number is. It goes by how much you make and how much time you have the child for overnight visits.

One thing that affects child support is, let’s say, father sees the kid three days a week but he is only seeing him from after school until 8:00 at night. That won’t affect the child support formula in his favor at all because that’s not an overnight visit. In most situations you might have a parent that sees the children very often and they’re very involved.

If they don’t have that many overnights visits, the formula somewhat works against them. There’s not much that you can do about it unless you can negotiate some relief based upon your particular circumstances.

Child Support Is Paid until the Children Graduate High School by a Certain Age and Can Be Modified over Time

Interviewer: How long does child support last?

Paul Tafelski: Child support will go until the child turns 18 and graduates from high school or until they’re 19 and still enrolled in school towards high school graduation.

Interviewer: Does the amount ever change over time as far as what someone is paying? Does it increase or decrease?

It Is Important to File for a Modification as Soon as It is Necessary because the Modification Isn’t Applied Retroactively

Paul Tafelski: It can be modified based upon a change of circumstances. A change of circumstances might be if somebody gets laid off, for example. They can petition the court to lower their child support. One of the important things that they have to know is that the effective date of the new child support amount if you get laid off will be the date that you file the motion to change or modify the child support.

Sometimes, people wait two, three, four months before they file that motion. They think that the amount will be modified back to the point where they lost their job but it isn’t. It’s only modified back to the date you file the motion. The important thing to remember is if you have a change of circumstances where your income decreases significantly, then you want to immediately file that motion to lower child support right away.

Also, if you’re entitled to be the one receiving child support, such as if you have a child born out of wedlock, you won’t get child support for times prior to when you file asking for it. If you have a baby and you wait until the he 2 years old to ask for child support, you won’t get child support for those first two years.

You’ll only get it from the time you file. The same rule applies to those who are seeking the money and that is if you’re entitled to it, you should file sooner rather than later.

If you file your motion for support or motion to decrease support today, it may take six months for it to get decided by the court system. They’ll go back to today’s date to calculate what the amount should be but they won’t go back beyond the filing date.

Child Support Payments Can Be Automatically Deducted from Paychecks

Interviewer: How does someone go about making the child support payment?

Paul Tafelski: It will usually come right out of their paycheck. The other way is that they can pay directly to the person or they can pay directly to Friend of the Court. The preferred way, by the court system, is that they take it right out of your paycheck through your employer.

Because that way, there’s no question about what’s happening and once the system is in place, it’s pretty automatic and there’s less things for people to fight about.

Interviewer: If someone is paying someone and they missed a payment, I’m pretty sure they can get into a lot of trouble. Are there any interest or penalties that they may have to pay later if that was the case?

Paul Tafelski: It’s possible but usually that’s not the case. Usually, it’s just creates a hassle for the person who’s supposed to receive the payment to try to have to go get their money.

Unmarried Couples with Children Essentially Go through a Similar Process When Determining Child Support and Parenting Time

Interviewer: What about for couples that aren’t married and they have a child? Do these same laws apply to them?

Paul Tafelski: The only difference is you’re filing a complaint for custody support and parenting time. Sometimes, a determination of paternity is also filed. Besides the property division, you’re still going to have the same issues when it comes to custody and parenting time and child support. The process will be similar to a divorce.

Step-Parents Pay Child Support Only If They Adopted the Step-Children from the Marriage

Interviewer: Would a step-parent have to pay child support?

Paul Tafelski: Only if they adopted the child. If you adopt the child and then get divorced, then you’re paying child support. If you never adopted the child, even if you raised them from the time they were a baby to the time they are 17, you’re not legally obligated to support them.

When You Adopt a Child, You Have the Same Obligations Legally as with a Biological Child

Interviewer: Foster parents could easily just go and adopt the child and a year later, they decide that they don’t like each other and that person is entitled to have to pay child support.

Paul Tafelski: If you legally adopted the child is the same as if it’s your child biologically.

How Is Child Support Calculated with Multiple Children?

Interviewer: Someone’s paying $400 for one child. Would they have to pay $400 for each additional child?

Paul Tafelski: Probably not.  It usually will be a little bit less.  You won’t get this full amount for each child. The formula is what it is. If you can dig around and find it online, if you don’t have an attorney, you might be able to run the numbers and get a general idea. Don’t forget too that each situation is affected by the number of overnight visits. Every case is a little bit different.

There Are Limits on How Much a Total Paycheck Can Be Allocated for Child Support

Typically, no, you’re not just going to have the same amount of support added for each child because at some point, there is a concern you might be taking more than 100% of the other person’s paycheck. They’re never really going to take more than half of their paycheck.

How Do You File a Petition to Modify Child Support?

Interviewer: What is the exact process an individual needs to do modify child support? Who do they need to report to?

Paul Tafelski: Typically, they want to go to the Friend of the Court. The Friend of the Court is a division of the family court that tries to administer most of the payments and parenting time issues. They work on behalf of the judges in the family court. Most family law matters will start with dealing with the family court, Friend of the Court.

Usually, the person would file a motion to decrease their child support through the Friend of the Court office. Or, they can do it with the regular court but usually it’s a little bit easier to do it at the Friend of the Court.

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