You and your ex duked it out in court, the mediators office, or on your own and came up with, what seemed fair at the time for child support. Determining your child’s best interests and what seemed reasonable is never easy, and the financial outcome is hard to determine at a time when your entire budget is in a state of change.
The fact of the matter is that most states have pre-determined formulas for determining child support, based on both parents income or income capabilities, who pays the insurance, and the number of overnights the child or children spend with the parent.
Is it Fair?
So wasting time, energy and money trying to get more often proves to be futile. If you feel the amount is unfair consider the below first:
- It’s a collectible number. Your ex has a decent job and the determined amount fits into their budget making the reality of actually receiving the support on time and in full each month is likely. If you go for more you may end up with less or nothing at all. Most parents are more than willing to pay what they can afford; if they cant afford you may find them constantly in arrears which does nothing for your monthly budget.
- Less may mean more. If you agree on less than what the formula suggest your ex may be willing to foot the bill for some of those extras; after-school activities, camp, or even college. Remember those extras often add up!
Kids are expensive-determine needs early on…
College may be years away if you have young children, but who is going to pay for it?
What about their first car?
After School Activities?
Yes, these are considered extras. Child support is meant to pay for the child’s necessities; food, shelter, clothing, telephone, utilities, and so on.
Your New Budget with Child Support
The amount has been determined now it’s time to make your budget work with this figure, plan for the extras, and keep yourself out of debt.
Developing a Budget
- Start by listing all your income; employment, child support, and or alimony.
- Then list your “fixed” expenses — those that are the same each month — like mortgage payments or rent, car payments, and insurance premiums.
- Next, list the expenses that vary — like entertainment, recreation, and clothing.
Writing down all your expenses, even those that seem insignificant, is a helpful way to track your spending patterns, identify necessary expenses, and prioritize the rest.
Dealing with your creditors
- If you are struggling to pay the basics and have outstanding debt as well–contact your creditors right away.
- Honesty is always the best policy, explain your situation (not receiving child support or currently unemployed whatever the case may be) and try to work out a modified payment plan that reduces your payments to what you can afford.
- Avoid having the accounts turned over to collections deal with the debt early on.
Dealing with Debt Collectors
Maybe it’s too late and the collection agencies are already calling–it’s important to know your rights!
- The Fair Debt Collection Practices Act is the federal law that dictates how and when a debt collector may contact you. A debt collector may not call you before 8 a.m., after 9 p.m., or while you’re at work if the collector knows that your employer doesn’t approve of the calls. Collectors may not harass you, lie, or use unfair practices when they try to collect a debt. And they must honor a written request from you to stop further contact.
Pay secured debt first
It is important to understand that secured debts are tied to assets, like your car for a car loan, or your house for a mortgage. If you stop making payments, the lender can repossess your car or foreclose on your house.
- If you see default in your future it may be in your best interest to sell the car and pay off the debt. In doing so you can avoid the added costs of repossession and a ding on your credit report.
- If you are falling behind on your mortgage, contact your lender immediately to avoid foreclosure. Most lenders are willing to work with you if they believe you’re acting in good faith and the situation is temporary. Some lenders may reduce or suspend your payments for a short time.
Maybe you aren’t receiving the amount of child support you hoped for, or worse any at all. Staying on top of your finances regardless of what your ex does is essential to your financial health. Stay strong, make sacrifices when you have too, and don’t be afraid to ask for help!
Suzanne is a certified credit counselor working in our Ask the Expert forums as a coach and a Social Media Specialist for CareOne. Suzanne tells her story of divorce and remarriage in her Divorce, Debt and Finances blog and also provides debt related content to the A Straight Talk on Debt blog. Follow Suzanne’s story and tips on finance on Twitter at ADivorcedMom.