Going through a divorce is challenging and stressful on its own—when you add children into the equation, it’s even more trying. Children add a unique dynamic to a divorce because the couple must reach an agreement about custody and child support. As you can imagine, reaching that agreement takes time and raises several questions about support payments. Every divorce is different when it comes to child custody and support. Naturally, each parent believes they are better than the other and typically seeks sole custody. The problem is that sole custody is very difficult to get. There usually needs to be something significant such as a parent’s adverse lifestyle or living situation to influence the judge’s decision in granting sole custody. That said, the vast majority of cases will result in the parents receiving joint custody. What a lot of parents don’t know about joint custody is that the judge will likely order somebody to pay child support. There is a lot to cover here, so be sure to read on if you’d like to learn how child support works with joint custody.
What Is Child Support?
You must understand the fundamentals of child support before we can discuss how it works with joint custody. Child support is a payment made by a divorced parent to their former spouse. The purpose of child support is to provide financial help to the parent so they can better raise their child. Child support money can be used for groceries, clothing, education, transportation, and health care. In short, child support is supposed to protect and maintain the child’s standard of living.
Factors That Affect the Amount of Child Support Owed
Every state calculates child support payments differently, but there are some commonalities that we’ll get into shortly. It’s important that you remember child support that payments will ensure your child or children have a positive standard of living. Additionally, most fathers presume they’ll have to pay more in child support merely due to the fact that they’re the father—not true. Traditionally, fathers had to pay more because women typically didn’t work and stayed home; thus, they had no income. Today, many women work just as much as men, so the idea that men will have to pay more is no longer relevant. All that being said, one parent may be required to pay more than the other for a few reasons, which we’ll get into next.
The first factor many states consider is which income model is most appropriate. Income models ensure that the child’s standard of living doesn’t change when they are with one parent over the other. Each state is different, but most states will primarily work with one of the two income models: income shares or percentage of income. The income shares model considers the income of each parent and then determines the child’s commitments. The income shares model can shift payments primarily based on the number of children, but also based on their basic needs. The percentage of income model, on the other hand, considers each parent independently. The state will examine a parent’s monthly income and then determine a percentage of that income that will go towards child support. You should note that some states use a fixed percentage rate and others use a variable rate; it depends on whether the state varies based on income levels or not.
Each Parent’s Income
As you saw previously, each parent’s income can significantly alter the child support payments and burden. In some rare cases, the state may look at each parent’s earnings and determine that child support isn’t necessary; scenarios like these are restricted to wealthy couples. In reality, most cases have parents that earn different amounts. Typically, the judge will examine the income of each parent to best determine the amount of child support needed. In some cases, only one parent will make payments (typically the one who earns the most money). Alternatively, the judge may determine that each parent is required to pay child support to ensure the child’s standard of living remains consistent with both parents.
Time Spent With the Child
It should come as no surprise that the amount of time each parent spends with the child can alter child support payments. Ideally, the parents will plan accordingly to ensure they spend equal time with the child, but that’s not always possible or realistic. Even with joint custody, there is almost always one parent who spends more time with the child. If you only see your child on the weekends, you will likely receive little (if any) child support. Alternatively, you will also pay more in child support; that’s why parents generally want to focus on having equal parenting time. There are several factors judges consider when it comes to parenting, but they generally won’t accept work or busyness as an excuse for spending less time with your child. A court will almost always make note of the number of times a child stays overnight at a particular parent’s home to determine child support payments.
There are several factors that affect how child support works with joint custody. Most parents want to do whatever they can to reduce the payments since they almost certainly won’t avoid them altogether. The best way to reduce your child support payments is by being civil and working with your ex-spouse. Do your best to share equal time with your child; this is your opportunity to spend time with you children—take advantage of it. If you lost time with your children during the divorce, you can make up for lost time. What parent doesn’t want more time with their children? This is especially true as children get older. If you feel that your child support payments are unfair or you need more child support from your ex, you’re going to need an attorney.
The team at Schiller DuCanto & Fleck has seasoned Chicago child support attorneys who are ready to take on your case. Unlike many other family law firms, our attorneys always work in your best interest. Our extensive experience allows us to provide the best service to our clients in all things family law. Our practice areas include divorce, legal separation, collaborative divorce, appeals, child support, child custody, alimony, mediation, orders of protection, and much more. If you have any questions or would like to set up an appointment, don’t hesitate to contact us today.