Child Support Questions


If you have children, it's likely that you have child support questions concerning your situation, such as how child support is calculated, how long it lasts, and if visitation rights and child support are connected. 

Since support issues often come up during and after a divorce, the following questions may help you find answers about your current situation.

The Purpose of Child Support - Find out what child support is supposed to be used for.

Temporary Child Support - Getting support established while the divorce is pending.

Getting Child Support - Find out if you can get child support and what you can do if you don't want to file for it, and more.

Filing for Child Support - Here are some of the things to think about when filing for support and what your options are.

Child Support Hearings - If your initial child support will be contested or later modified, you may be required to go to a child support hearing.

Questions about Child Custody and Support - Will the support obligation change if custody is changed? Also, find out if custodial grandparents or the non-custodial parent are entitled to support.

Joint custody child support questions - Find out how support will be affected if you and your ex share custody of the children.

Questions about paternity and child support - Is a man liable for child support if his name isn't on the birth certificate or if a DNA test proves the child isn't his?

How Child Support is Calculated - Read about what factors go into calculating child support.

Child Care and Day Care Expenses: Can day care expenses be included in child support orders and how is re-imbursement handled?

Medical Expenses and Child Support: Who is responsible for paying for the medical expenses that aren't covered by insurance?

Child Support and Educational Costs - Find out if the costs for primary and secondary schooling can be included in your child support order.

Extraordinary expenses and child support - Discover how expenses not covered by traditional support orders are handled.

Child Support Payments - Find out when child support payments start, if your ex can reduce the payments, and more.

Tips For Collecting Child Support - Learn how to insure that support payments are paid as ordered.

Child Support Modification - When can child support be changed and what effect will different factors have.

Remarriage and Child Support - How is child support affected if one of the parents remarries?

Stopping Child Support - Find out how to stop support payments, if a parent can stop child support without a court order, and more.

Taxes and Support Payments - Many women wonder if the support payments are taxable. Read the answer to this and other tax related issues.

When Does Child Support End - Find out what factors determine when child support will end.

Collecting Back Child Support - If your ex isn't paying according to the support orders, here is what you can do.

The Purpose of Child Support

What is child support supposed to be used for?

Erica's Question: What expenses exactly does child support cover? I believe that child support goes towards a roof over the child's head, clothes on her back, and food in her mouth. Is this wrong, or should the child get the child support from the non-custodial parent?

Brette's Answer: Child support is paid to the custodial parent and does not directly go to the child. There are no specifics about what child support covers. The parent who receives it is not accountable for how the money is used. I'm not sure I understand your last question. The non-custodial parent is the one who pays the child support.

What if the support isn't used for the child's needs?

Suzy's Question: The child support money we send is not being spent to meet the child's needs. We already send additional allowance money to her, and we already pay for her health insurance and out of pocket medical expenses, extra-curricular and summer camps separately. The child support is $1000/month but her custodial parent claims she needs us to buy her clothes, pay for school expenses, etc. How can we be sure the child's needs are met without going broke?

Brette's Answer: I assume your husband is the non-custodial parent in this situation. Child support can be used the parent receiving it in any way. It is meant to increase the household income and does not have to be used directly for items for the child. Unless your child support directs you to pay for anything else, you do not have to. I understand however that it is hard to say no if you believe the child really is in need. The best advice I can give you is to pay the child support and then if you want to spend extra money, do so directly on the child yourself. Take her shopping and buy her clothing to take home. Don't give extra money to the other parent. Good luck.

Does he have to pay child support if he pays for everything else?

April's Question: If the father sees his two children, buys all of their needed items (clothes, school supplies, etc.), plus pays his house payment where the mother Lives, and car payment of the mothers car, should he have to pay child support?

Brette's Answer: Child support is determined by the court based on the parents' incomes. Child support is generally meant to provide funds to provide for the child. Paying for a mortgage payment or car payment is usually a separate issue that has to do with the property settlement. Some states require parents to also share school or medical expenses in addition to child support payments. 

What if he spends the child support on himself?

Stephanie's Question: I pay support on my son to his father. I just found out from our 17 year old son that his dad spends the money on himself and none of it goes to our son. How do I go about fixing this problem?

Brette's Answer: You can't. Support does not have to be used by the parent for anything in particular. It is meant to improve the general quality of life of the child.

Who is responsible for clothing at their Dad's house?

Diane's Question: The father of my 2 girls pays child support. He tells me it is my responsibility to pay for clothing for them needed at his house. Is this true? I feel it should be equally shared, just like sports, medical, etc. It is the one thing we did not specify in our agreement.

Brette's Answer: Generally the spouse paying child support is not required to pay for clothing unless it is specifically specified in the order. Otherwise it is your responsibility. You can talk to your attorney about getting a modification to include that.

Can he deduct clothing expenses from the child support?

Missy's Question: My ex is beginning to deduct clothes, etc. that he purchases for the children while they are visiting with him, from medical expenses he is ordered to pay and/or child support.  I have not asked him to purchase clothes for them but he is doing this to try and hurt me financially.

Brette's Answer: Unless your order specifies he can do this, he's in violation and you can go to court for violation and enforcement proceedings.

Should I ask for child support if he isn't helping with expenses?

Lori's Question: We have been separated for 2 1/2 years now. My daughter lives with me and my son lives with his dad. There has been no talk about child support as of yet. I don't have any problem with this arrangement if he stepped up as a father and took proper care of his kids. I seem to be buying my son groceries every week. I spend easily $60 in food just for him. I've tried talking to him, but he gets defensive and isn't willing to have an amicable conversation. Should I be asking him to pay me support?

Brette's Answer: It is much easier to get child support established and paid on a regular basis than to beg the father of your children for help with expenses. You will know how much money you can count on and he can budget to pay for it. It also eliminates any arguments about it.

Does child support cover expenses at the non-custodial parent's house?

Jason's Question: I am the non-custodial parent paying child support for a 7 month old. Do I have to buy extra baby formula for my house or should the child support cover those expenses?

Brette's Answer: While this site is generally only for questions from women, I thought your question would be of answer to our readers. Child support is paid to the other parent to assist with the expenses that parent incurs. When your child is with you, you are responsible for the costs of feeding and caring for that child. Some things should travel with the child - clothing, favorite toys, medicine and other essentials. You are responsible for planning for and providing for needs that happen while in your care. Good luck. »Return to top

Am I responsible for 85% of the expenses in addition to paying child support?

Question: I currently pay $3,000/month in child support for my 3 kids. My ex and I still argue over every expense for the children. I believe haircuts, bike repairs, school clothes and my daughter learners permit (just to name a few) are covered under child support. My ex believes all expenses for the children are covered under the 85/15 pro-rata agreement we have in place for health care and extracurricular activities. What does child support cover? What does it not cover? If I could get a straight answer, the arguing would stop. How can I be forced to pay $3k/month, and still be responsible to pay 85% of all other expenses?

Brette's Answer: Generally if a parent pays child support he or she is not responsible for other expenses unless the order or the state law specifies that he or she is responsible for other expenses. If your order says you are to split medical expenses, then you split those. If your state mandates that you share school expenses, then you share those. It is not nebulous at all and you must determine exactly what your order says and what your state law is.

Getting Child Support

Can I get child support if I'm living with the father?

Ashley's Question: Can I still go for child support if I live with the father of my child?

Brette's Answer: Probably not if you're living together. If you get divorced or live apart, then you can file. Check with a lawyer though to learn what the rules are in your state.

Can I still file for child support even if I have other children?

Quinasta's Question: My husband and I have lived apart for 5 years. We both moved on and I couldn't afford a divorce. We have a seven year old who he doesn't even want to see. If I had another child, can I still file for child support for his son? Would he be able to ask for custody if I file?

Brette's Answer: Yes, you can still file for child support even if you have other children. Child support and custody are separate issues. To obtain child support, custody has to be determined first. If he wants to ask for custody, that would be his opportunity. It's unlikely he would win since he has had no contact with the child, however visitation is a possibility.

Does he still have to pay support for my unborn baby?

Donna's Question: What if I already have two children, with another on the way? Will my husband owe support on the baby that's not born yet?

Brette's Answer: Yes, it doesn't matter when the child is born (before, during or after marriage). If it's his, child support can be ordered. Good luck.

Can I get support if we separated but never divorced?

Traci's Question: We were legally married (and still are) for 20+ years. I became disabled and decided to move to a ranch house to avoid stairs. During this time, he snuck his things to an apartment and he just never came back one day. We never legally separated. He quit his 5-6 figure job to avoid child support. A few months ago I found an unclaimed money account matching him on a website. Told him, did all leg work and verification and $25k was deposited in his account. Can I ask that he set aside 3k for each of our children since he's literally not regularly helped financially?

Brette's Answer: You can certainly ask that but he's not required to do anything unless a court orders him. You should meet with an attorney who can explain your rights to child support, alimony, and property division. You don't have to get a divorce to get child support or spousal support so even if you don't want to end the marriage, there is financial support available for you and your children. 

Do I have any right to child support if we weren't married?

Angel's Question: My husband and I had a ceremony but we were never legally married. After 14 years, I moved out and our 2.5 year old goes back and forth. Do I have any rights in terms of a financial settlement, child support etc...?

Brette's Answer: You are exactly one of the reasons why I wrote my new book, Unmarried with Children (from Adams Media). Yes you certainly have rights! Child support has nothing to do with marriage. Go to family court and ask for it. The financial settlement part is trickier. You can consider several things - if you can get him to go, a mediator can help you work out how to divide your joint assets. If not, you can go to regular civil court (small claims or a higher court depending on the amount of money) and ask that joint assets be divided.

Can I get child support if he didn't adopt my child?

Question: My daughter was 2 months old when my husband and I started dating. We were married for 13 years before I filled for a divorce. He has claimed her as his child on his income taxes the whole time we were married. Can I get child support for her?

Brette's Answer: No, not unless he adopted her.

Will he owe support if he gave my son from a prior marriage his last name?

Vanessa's Question: I legally have sole custody of my 1st born son, whom I had from a previous marriage. My husband has given my son his last name. We have legally changed his name with the courts. Will that make him legally liable to pay child support upon our divorce?

Brette's Answer: He would only be required to pay child support if he adopted your son and became a legal parent. 

Can I get child support from my second husband?

Michelle's Question: I'm currently receiving child support from my ex-husband. My new husband and I are now getting divorced. Can I get child support or maintenance from my new husband even if he didn't adopt my son?

Brette's Answer: You can get alimony or maintenance, but not child support if he is not the father.

He's threatened that he won't pay child support if I leave him.

Dee's Question: I would like to pack up and leave my alcoholic and verbally abusive husband. He has threatened that if I leave him he won't pay a dime in child support or spousal support. What should I do? Can I leave with my daughter and take our things with us, such as computer, furniture, clothes and games and toys (and also take some money from the bank for support)?

Brette's Answer: You should set up a consultation with a family law attorney who can discuss with you in detail how much child support and spousal support you would be entitled to. Your husband does not get to decide if he will pay it - if the court orders it he will have to pay it. You can take things with you when you leave, as well as a portion of the cash. Check with an attorney to find out how best to do this in your state.

Can I get any support for taking care of my pregnant sister?

Question: I am 24 single living in a 1 bedroom flat. My 14 year old sister is pregnant and has nowhere else to go, so I am now looking after her. Am I entitled to anything? I am not working and have no children myself.

Brette's Answer: Not unless your parents sign over custody of her to you, then you could get child support. Otherwise, she is an emancipated minor. You should contact social services to find out her eligibility for welfare, food stamps, and WIC. She can also obtain child support from the father of her baby once it is born. Good luck.

Can I get child support if it wasn't part of the original divorce?

Amber's Question: My divorce was final two years ago, and I had primary custody in a 60/40 custody split (we swapped weeks). After he remarried, my daughter started living with me full time, with my ex taking her every other weekend. Since I did not seek child support when my divorce was filed, can I file for a modification and require him to help support his daughter?

Brette Answers: You can go to family court and request child support. You will probably need to modify your child custody plan as well to reflect the current status. Then child support can be based on that.

Can he request support if it was waived in the divorce?

Elizabeth's Question: Our court divorce papers from 10 years ago state that I shall not be obligated to pay child support in exchange for waiving my interest in the residence. My ex recently divorced and is threatening to have our divorce papers modified for child support. I've been unemployed for over a year because of complications from surgery and am in the process of filing for disability. What are my rights, as I can no longer work?

Brette's Answer: Unless he can show some change in circumstances that merits any of this, he has no chance. Your financial situation would certainly be considered in his request for child support. Good luck.

Can I apply for support if our divorce said we had no children?

Fran's Question: Can I file for child support after a divorce is final? We had a verbal agreement on what he would pay, but he hasn't paid anything since the divorce. When I filed I said we had no children together. That's why he signed. Is it possible to apply for support now or should I just let it go?

Brette's Answer: You perjured yourself by saying you have no children. You're going to need an attorney's help fixing this.

What if I don't want him to pay child support?

Alexena's Question: My husband has spent some time in jail and rarely has any money. Can I divorce him and not require child support from him so that I'm free and clear of him?

Brette's Answer: It is not required that you include child support, however the judge may question your settlement if it does not contain it. By opting out of the child support guidelines, you have to provide reasons for why you are doing so and assure the court that the child will be adequately supported. In most cases, some child support is going to be part of the deal.

How do we do a one-time settlement for child support?

Nicky's Question: My ex and I want to do a 1 time settlement for child support. How do I go about this?

Brette: You need to see an attorney. Most attorneys recommend against this since needs change and additional child support may need to be sought later.

Is more child support better than getting alimony?

Question: During our separation, my lawyer encouraged me to agree to a higher amount of child support rather than having a separate alimony payment. Now we are considering divorce. I am wondering if it is prudent to keep the same arrangement, or ask for a separate alimony payment. I am worried that my husband will try to get my son to go live with him, as he has tried to do before, and that if he is successful, I will lose it all. How do I approach this situation?

Brette's Answer: There are pros and cons to the many different arrangements. Child support ends when your child ages out or if custody changes. Alimony does not. You can also consider lump sum alimony which is payment up front, or a larger property settlement. » Return to top

Filing for Child Support

Can I file the support order on my own?

Maureen Asks: My soon to be ex-husband and I both signed a divorce settlement and still are waiting for the Judge to sign in 6 months from now. My lawyer never filed for a support order. Can I file child support motions on my own if my attorney doesn't return my phone calls?

Brette's Answer: Yes you can. You don't have to have an attorney. You should, however, let your attorney know so that you're not both doing the same thing.

Can I file for back support if we never had support orders to start with?

Kris' Question: My ex and I split many years ago and the kids have lived with me. We didn't go to have custody and support filed. Is it possible to try for what would be back support now even though it was never legally established?

Brette's Answer: To be clear, what you are asking for is called retroactive child support - child support from before the time a child support order was put into place. Back child support would be child support that was owed but never paid (called arrears). Retroactive child support in a case like yours would be unusual. You knew where the other parent was, had contact with him and yet never filed for support. You could however file for child support to start now. You can ask for retroactive child support, but it is a rarity in a situation like this.

Which state child support rules will apply if I move to another state?

Crystal's Question: My husband and I divorced in Maryland. He stopped child support payments when our daughter turned 18 because that is Maryland law. I live in NY now, and NY state law states he has to pay child support until my daughter is 21 as long as she is in school, which she is. I was told that I would be able to "re-file" in NY and then it will be granted. Is this true?

Updated Answer: In 2001, the UNIFORM INTERSTATE FAMILY SUPPORT ACT Section 611 was amended make it clear that the duration of the child support obligation should be fixed by the order of the originating state.
Family Support Act

When serving support papers, are they valid if left at your home?

CC's Question: My ex is trying to serve me with a petition to modify our child support order because I am moving out of state. The day I was moving, he sent an officer to my mother's home and waited to see if I was home. She told the officer I no longer lived there and the officer gave the papers to my mother and said if I do not go to court, I will go to jail. I have yet to be served personally. What can I do concerning this matter?

Brette's Answer: Playing games with service is generally a waste of time. At some point they will find you. Your state may have a provision that allows papers to be left at your home even if you are not there, so the service that occurred might be valid.

Can I withdraw my child support petition?

Aida's Question: I filed for support, but now want to call it off. What happens if I don't go to the hearing?

Brette's Answer: You can withdraw your petition for child support. Call the court and find out what their procedure is. If you don't appear at the court appearance your petition will likely be dismissed by the court.

Is the parent still obligated to pay support if the petition is withdrawn?

Jaimie's Question: If a grandmother has initiated a law suit against a daughter for child support in the state of TN and it has gone to trial, can the grandmother later decide to drop the case and relinquish her claim to the child support? Would the daughter then no longer be reliable for the payments?

Brette: It would be up to the judge, but you could notify the court you wish to withdraw the case. »Return to questions

Will I have to file for child support if my child is getting Medicaid?

Mandee's Question: I am not working, but my mother is helping a lot and the father of my child does what he can to help. I do not want to file for child support, but the state is telling me in order for my daughter to get Medicaid, I must put her father on child support. I do not want to do. Is there any way I can avoid that while still getting her the medical help?

Brette's Answer: No. If you seek public benefits, the state can require you to assist in a child support case.

Child Support Hearings

Should I re-file for support if he wasn't at the hearing?

Erica's Question: We're separated and I recently filed for Child Support. Our court date was a month ago and he did not show. The judge said he could not look up his pay grade so I could receive CS because my husband had to be present. So the judge issued a warrant for his arrest. He may never be brought in unless he gets pulled over for a traffic violation. Should I file again?

Brette's Answer: If he doesn't appear, he is in default and you should be able to obtain an order against him, as long as he did actually receive notice of the proceedings. You need to find out if he was legally served. If not, service has to happen. If he was served you need to make a motion for a default judgment.

Should I appear in person instead of doing a phone conference?

Carol's Question: I have filed for child support. The father lives in another state and has to appear before the judge. I was not ordered to be there, but wanted to be to make sure he does not talk his way out of paying child support. I set up a phone conference, so I could speak. My question is should I go there instead of doing a phone conference?

Brette's Answer: A phone conference is probably easier for you. There are some advantages to being there in person, but phone conferences are a good substitute.

How can I get a postponement of the support modification hearing?

Miriam's Question: I received a petition for modification of an order of support made by the Family Court. I need to get the date of appearance postponed. How do I go about doing this?

Brette's Answer: Call the family court and request a postponement.

Will we need to go to trial if we can't agree to the modification?

Linda's Question: In the divorce decree it says that I will not receive child support until the marital house is sold. That was based on us living together until it sold and sharing the costs for our one child. Well the house didn't sell. I left and filed bankruptcy and he abandoned the marital home. I never received a dime from my ex for any financial support for our son who lives with me full time. I am filing a petition for modification to child support due to these substantial circumstances. I am representing myself. If his lawyer disputes, is the next step trial?

Brette's Answer: Yes. If a settlement can't be reached, a trial will be scheduled. Most things settle and in this case there's a good chance there will be a settlement since obviously the terms of the decree cannot be carried out. You can also seek a modification to the financial settlement since you're not benefiting from the sale of the house.

Do we still need to go to court if we ended up getting married?

Jolynne's Question: My husband and I have been subpoenaed to child support court. Now that we are married and our children receive no Federal aid, do we still have to go to the court date? Or will they just dismiss/close the case?

Brette's Answer: You must always appear for a subpoena or you will be in contempt of court. If the court date is canceled you will be notified (you can also call to check).

What if I no longer live in the state where the support hearing will be?

AS's Question: My husband and I divorced 2 years ago and in February of this year, I moved out of state. He wasn't happy about it but didn't try to stop me either. Now my ex wants me to go back home for a child support hearing. I never let the court know we moved, but my ex knew and has spoken to kids several times. Am I in trouble and should I move back to ex's state.

Brette's Answer: No. He essentially consented to the move. I recommend talking to an attorney about having the child support case moved to your new state. » Return to top

What if the judge hasn't given her decision after six months?

Alexa's Question: I got a child support order because he never paid and the day he got it, he filed a counter suit to erase the arrears. We went to court for this (for a year) and had a trial. The judge finally said she would make her decision in 30 days and would send the new order. However its now been 6 months and still no answer. What can I do other than ask the court for an answer (I'm afraid I might anger the judge).

Brette's Answer: Call the court and ask the status of the case. Explain that it is has been 6 months and you were told there would be a decision in 30 days. It sounds like there was some kind of error and the case got misplaced.

Custody Issues and Child Support

How will it affect child support if one child lives with each of us?

Jessica's Question: I have two children with court ordered child support from 8 years ago. My ex now wants my 10yr old to move in with him and have primary custody changed over. Our 12 year old daughter doesn't want to go and will be living with me. How will this affect the child support? He says it's a wash and he doesn't have to pay anymore. Please answer I can't find the answer.

Brette's Answer: It depends on your respective incomes. If one child lives with one parent and the other with the other parent, child support for each will be calculated then offset. Basically whoever earns less or has more allowable expenses will receive a small amount of child support, unless your incomes are very different, then it could be a large amount. You should see an attorney who can help you calculate how it will work in your state.

What are my chances of getting custody if I owe back support?

Crystal's Question: What are my chances of getting custody of my children if I owe a little back support?

Brette's Answer: Support and custody are two separate issues; however that doesn't mean a judge might not have it in the back of his mind. Custody is determined based on the best interests of the children.

Can the non-custodial parent get child support?

Julie's Question: If father has primary residency and mother has weekend supervised visitation, does he have to pay if the mother files for child support?

Brette's Answer: Child support is payable to the parent with primary custody, in this case, the father. The mother would not be eligible to receive it.

Will I owe less support if the kids spend more time with me?

M's Question: I was working evenings when we got divorced, and only had two days off. My husband had most of the overnights, so they made me pay child support because of this. My schedule has changed and my kids are with me pretty much all the time, except for weekends. I have 3 days with them, their father has them the other 4. What can I do? My ex makes more money than me, yet I'm stuck with the child support. I owe backed child support because I can't afford it with my income.

Brette's Answer: You could seek to modify the custody arrangement since you have a different schedule and then child support from that point on could be modified.

What happens to support when the child changes residence?

Lauri's Question: My son now age 19, moved in with me this weekend. I pay $700 per month to his father for child support. I'm required to pay until the age of 21, but do I still have to pay now that he lives with me?

Brette's Answer: No, you should get the order modified to reflect the living arrangements. You first need to file for a modification of the custody order, and then you file to modify child support. You can seek to have your child support payments ended and also ask that he pay you child support for your child.

Can support be terminated if our son goes to live with his Dad?

Cheryl's Question: We have joint legal and physical custody and he pays child support. My youngest child is now 17 and currently living with his dad. He wants to remain there because he has more freedom and material things. He still visits me and stays overnight. My ex is now trying to get the child support terminated since our son lives with him. I never gave permission to break the 50/50 rule but my child is staying there I guess. Does this mean he will win the case and have to stop paying me because he provides most of the support?

Brette's Answer: If your child no longer lives with you, child support can be adjusted to reflect that, and you may have to pay him support.

Does my dad still have to pay support if I live with him?

Alex's Question: I came across this site by Google and decided it'd be the best way to ask, as there isn't much information out there! I'm now 15 and had custody recently changed to my father because me and my mom don't get along at all. Does my dad still have to pay support? Also, is there any way to avoid visitation? She was horrible when raising my sister and my sister had to go through counseling for alcohol abuse. I just really don't want to spend another second here and want out! What can I do?

Brette's Answer: If you're living with your dad, your dad should seek to modify child support so he no longer has to pay it. If you don't want to visit your mom, you're reaching an age where no one is going to force you to go. What would be a really good idea however is for you and your mom to go to counseling together. Maybe she could change the way she behaves and maybe you find a way to have a relationship. Good luck.

Will I have to pay support if he gets full custody?

Alice's Question: If my husband filed for full custody of our children, will I end up having to pay child support?

Brette's Answer: If he is granted physical residence of the children, then he is eligible to seek child support from you.

Why is child support so much if I don't even get to see my child?

Judy's Question: Earlier this year I became very sick, as I have a chronic disease. My Dr. recommended extended rest and that my teenage daughter live with her father. He got full custody and I now have visitation. I was told by both our attorneys I now need to pay child support (I do not work; I do receive alimony). My daughter refuses to see me or talk with me. I realize child support and visitation are separate items, I just have no idea how or why I am paying this monthly amount, with no contact.

Brette's Answer: Child support and visitation are not directly related. Most non-custodial parents are required to pay some type of child support and most states have a set minimum amount that applies even to those who are disabled or unemployed. You are paying child support because it is a parent's responsibility to financially support a child. If you are not getting your visitation, you can seek to have the order enforced. If you feel the amount of child support is too high you can ask to have it modified.

Can he file for custody because I filed for child support?

Devon's Question: The father of my child has been absent throughout my entire pregnancy and still is now that my daughter is two months old. If I file for child support does that mean he can file to have joint custody? He has many warrants for his arrest his name is being constantly changed and he is fleeing from the law right now. He is not on the birth certificate but I really need help financially. How can I make it so he pays support but has no rights or visitations to my child?

Brette's Answer: He could bring a paternity/custody suit on his own at any time, but if you institute a child support case, he can also ask for custody/visitation. This will be determined based on the best interest of the child. It sounds like he is in a bad situation and no court would give him custody, although somewhere along the line, visitation is possible, but not until he resolves his legal issues and then you would have a strong case for supervised visitation if it is going to be ordered at all.

Will his custody case affect my motion to modify child support?

Randi's Question: I recently had my ex served with papers for modification of child support. In return, he served me with papers trying to get full custody of our daughter because he doesn't want to pay the child support. He is military and is deployed 1-2 times a year for several months. He already has a preliminary hearing date, but I don't have a date for my case yet. Will any of this affect my child support case?

Brette's Answer: It's likely the court will postpone the child support case until the custody issue is resolved - although you could ask for a temporary order increasing it while the custody case is pending. It sounds like you've got a good case for custody though, and once you get that taken care of you can move ahead with the child support issue.

Can he get custody changed so that he doesn't have to pay support?

Alison's Question: I have just sought to have Child Support collect the correct maintenance for my son of 15. I have had sole custody of my son since he was 1 and have managed financially ever since (with my ex never paying the correct maintenance). After being contacted by Child Support, my ex said he would leave the country or go for sole custody. He spoke to my son about it and my son does not want to go to court or have his father leave the country. What should I expect?

Brette's Answer: Your son should not even be involved in this. Your ex was ordered to pay a certain amount. If he doesn't pay, enforcement proceedings will take place. Courts always see through the ruse of someone trying for a change in custody to avoid child support.

Can I ask for a custody change so I don't have to pay support?

Carolyn's Question: My ex and I were separated for 3 years. He is military, and my 2 children live on base with him. I did not take them with me because I could not afford to support them at the time, as well as the fact that I felt that taking them away from their home and friends would be even harder on them. In the decree, we have joint conservatorship, but they live with him. I have been ordered to pay child support, which I cannot afford. Can I modify the order so that the kids live with me and he has to pay child support, or would I be better off trying to get the support lowered? My ex told me that if I would sign over my rights to 1/2 his retirement we could work something agreeable out.

Brette's Answer: You can seek a change in custody based on a change in circumstances. You will need to show that a change is in the best interests of the children. If you win custody, then child support will be changed. I think that you need to decide if you want your children to live with you. You shouldn't seek custody simply to get out of paying child support. If they live with you, your expenses will increase at least that amount - it's certainly not a savings to get custody.

If you are still married and your divorce is not final, you can work out your own deal exchanging an asset for child support -- however a court will never approve an out and out agreement for this. Despite this, people make these kinds of deals all the time when they negotiate settlements. If you are already divorced (you weren't clear about this), there is no way to make this exchange. If you transfer an asset to him it is a taxable event, unless it falls under gift tax.

What if he lied to CSE about custody to get support changed?

Cheryl's Question: The judge in superior court would not change child support order for father. He went to the local child support and told them he has custody (which he doesn't) and they changed the order. Can they do that?

Brette's Answer: None of that makes sense since custody is a matter of record - it can be checked. At the very least they should have asked to see the order. You need to contact them and show them the custody order.

Do I have to pay support if my ex's wife adopts my child?

Jen's Question: If my ex's spouse adopts my son, do I still owe my ex-husband child support?

Brette's Answer: No. If your child is adopted and you are no longer a legal parent, you no longer pay child support. You also give up all rights to having any relationship with your child.

Can a grandparent get child support if they are the major care taker?

Linda's Question: My daughter is getting a divorce. They have agreed each will have the children 2 days and nights a week. I am the grandparent and have watched the children 3 nights a week since they were born. Since I keep them 3 nights a week and drive them to and from school, and feed them am I deserving of child support from the father and or both of them? They both make the same amount of money therefore my daughter is not requesting child support.

Brette's Answer: I'm disturbed by this arrangement since you actually have more time with the children than anyone else. To get support, you would need to first establish what is happening in terms of custody via a custody order that actually gives you some custodial rights.

Can I get child support for my adopted grandchildren if I divorce?

Grace's Question: I've had legal custody of my three grandchildren for the last 3 years, and now my husband of 10 years is divorcing me. Can he be responsible for paying child support for our three grandchildren?

Brette's Answer: No. They are not his children. You can however seek support from the legal parents of your grandchildren.

Will I have to pay support to the custodial grandparent?

Sheila's Question: About 7 years ago I decided to let my son live with his grandparents because I couldn't take care of him. When we went to court, his grandmother was granted sole physical custody. I do get my son every weekend and more in the summer and I also get him the things he needs. Now she is taking me to court for child support. Can she get child support from me?

Brette's Answer: Yes, she is entitled to child support since she is the custodial grandparent. »Return to top

How Child Support Is Calculated

What is factored into the child support calculation?

Melissa's Question: When paying child support, do they take into consideration what money gets paid out in bills before they determine what gets paid in child support?

Brette's Answer: There is a formula used to determine child support. Go to your state court web page and check the family court section for child support information. You can start by looking up your state divorce information, and then clicking on the link for child support calculations.

Why does my lawyer need a software program to calculate the child support?

Lucy's Question: My lawyer states her program for child support has a "bug" and miscalculating amount of proposed monthly child support. It has been two months and it still not corrected.  They said the company is aware.  Why can’t they simply buy another program, borrow a program from another lawyer, or calculate the old fashion way?  Frustrating!

Brette's Answer: You don't need a program to calculate child support, although that's certainly a convenient way to do it. Get in touch with your lawyer -- by email, phone message or even fax and nicely explain you've been waiting two months and need them to resolve this now. 

How do I fill out the child worksheet if I don't know his income?

Lara's Question: I'm filing for a divorce myself and I was told that I have to fill out a child support worksheet. My husband refuses to give me his monthly income. Do I just fill out my half of the worksheet or is there anything specific that I need to do? He once told me his average income was between $450 and $500 a week after taxes.

Brette's Answer: You can only swear to your own information. If they are asking you estimate his income, you can do that. If you have any questions, ask the court clerk when you hand the form in.

Do we have to follow the child support guidelines?

Vanessa's Question: Is there a limit to how much money they can take from you for child support? My ex has a current support order and I am putting in one for myself. With two support orders, according to the "electronic worksheet", he will have nothing left to live off of after he pays all his child support. Can they really do that?

Brette's Answer: You can choose to opt out of the state guidelines and the court can also deviate from it.

Can we decide on the amount of child support that will be paid?

Terry's Question: My spouse and I are attempting to do a non-contested divorce online. Can we come up with our own amount of money for child support on one child? Each of us will have the child for approximately half of every month.

Brette's Answer: In most states you can go outside the child support standards if you have a good reason to do so. You may need to offer an explanation to the court for why you wish to do this, and make it clear that you both agree to it. Even so, it is up to the judge to decide if your agreement is acceptable. In practice, most courts are pleased to have parents who can agree and as long as it seems fair, they are reluctant to make a fuss. Good luck.

Is all income used to calculate child support?

Mary's Question: My ex is working a full time and a part time job. We have not set the final child support amount. Will the courts base the income from both jobs or only one job?

Brette's Answer: Child support takes into account all income. Good luck.

Will my income be used in determining how much support he pays?

Lillian's Question: My children's father wants to lower what he pays for support. Can the court hold it against me in how much I make to determine what he has to pay in support?

Brette's Answer: Yes. Child support is income-based and both parents' income is used when calculating the amount.

Why do I owe support if I was a stay at home mom during the marriage?

Lidia's Question: I was a stay at home mom before he filed for divorce, even during the divorce I did not work.  He has sole custody of the child.  Once I started working he filed for child support and I have to pay $700 a month.  He makes 2x as much as I do and lives with his girlfriend who pays half the bills.  I have to support myself and am on the verge of declaring bankruptcy.  Why do I have to pay child support when during the marriage I was stay at home mom?

Brette's Answer: Child support is about the current situation. The parent who spends the most time with the child receives financial support from the other parent to help pay for the child's expenses. It is calculated based only on the parties' current incomes.

Can I exclude a one-time capital gain from the support calculation?

Question: We have agreed the property I am inheriting is not a divisible marital asset. However, when my sisters and I sell it, we will each have to claim a capital gain. This will temporarily increase my gross income in the year of sale. My spousal and child support are based on income.  How can I exempt this income from my support calculation?

Brette's Answer: You can't. Spousal support and child support are based on income and separate income is part of the calculation.

Is he obligated to pay child support if he's unemployed?

Elyse's Question: My husband has not worked for the last 9 months, and things are just about over between us. Would the court make him get a job to pay child support? He says he won't work so I won't get a dime!

Brette's Answer: Your husband is obligated to pay child support - there is a minimum that must be paid even if a person is unemployed. In some states child support can be ordered based on what the person would earn if he or she worked minimum wage. Talk to an attorney.

What if he works less to lower the child support?

Camille's Question: My ex-husband is considering going back to college and working as little as possible as a "self-employed carpenter". How can I ensure that I get the child support my son deserves? I heard that if a non-custodial parent is underemployed or unemployed, the court may consider earning potential instead of actual income.

Brette's Answer: That is correct. Document what he's earning now if possible.

What if he's lying about his finances to lower child support?

Elyse's Question: What if my ex is hiding finances and claiming that he is unemployed in order to lower child support payments?

Brette's Answer: You hire an attorney who will subpoena records and possibly hire an investigator.

What if I can't pay my bills because child support is so high?

Cindy's Question: My son went to live with his dad and has been there for about 1 year. My ex is taking me to court for child support. I pay my sons breakfast and lunch at school, I bought all his school clothes, hunting license etc. I work 2 jobs to make ends meet. My ex makes 3x more a month than I do. If I pay the 20% of my income, I will not be able to pay my bills. I want to continue contributing to my son, but I'm not able to pay the 20%. Do you have any suggestions?

Brette's Answer: First of all, I think you ought to add up what you're spending on all these things you're paying for your son. I think you might find it adds up to or at least equals a big chunk of your ordered child support amount. If you stopped doing all the extras which are not ordered by the court, you might be able to meet your obligation. I understand how you feel though because you're paying things directly and see benefits from it. It is hard to hand money over and trust your ex to take care of it, but you don't want to get into a position where you're in arrears where you could possibly lose your license or have your tax refund taken. If you think your support order is too high, file for a modification.

Does a man still owe child support if he has more than six children?

April's Question: If a man has more than six children, does he still owe child support on them?

Brette's Answer: Yes. He could have 100 children and still have to pay. Maybe what your confusion is here is that most states cap the child support percentage once you get to 5 children.

Will my child support be given priority over the "Other" woman's?

Lori: My husband had two children as the result of an affair. We have two children of our own who were born first. I stayed with him till I could no longer tolerate it, and now we are getting a divorce. My question is, will his child support be readjusted for the two affair children and will my children be given priority?

Brette's Answer: He will still pay the same percentage for the other children. But, now that he has to pay child support for two more children, his expenses have increased, so his available income has gone down, which will decrease the income available to apply child support to. There is no such thing as priority among children for child support.

Why is my child support less than the woman who filed first?

D's Question: I understand you say there is no priority in child support, but why is it that the children from a marriage get less child support than a child from an affair just because they have filed first. If this is the case, then who ever files first gets more support.

Brette's Answer: There isn't priority, but income is reduced when child support is being paid to the first case. So there is less income available when the second case is filed.

Can my ex get support lowered if my daughter has a job?

Debra's Question: My daughter has been working since she turned 16 so that she can save money to buy a car and for college. She typically works 30 hours a week and brings home about $1200 a month. My ex-husband has stated that this allows him a reduction of his current child support order. Is this correct?

Brette's Answer: Unless she is emancipated, living independently, no. Good luck. » Return to top

Child Care Expenses

Can he be required to pay a portion of the daycare expenses?

Jackie's Question: I'm currently going through a divorce, but have already been awarded child support. If my child has to go to daycare, shouldn't my ex have to pay for half of the daycare expenses even though I am receiving child support?

Brette's Answer: Child care/education costs as well as child medical costs are all a component of child care. You can get a temporary order detailing these expenses, or you can wait and make it part of your final order. These expenses aren't necessarily half and half - it depends on all the circumstances of your situation and what is the most fair.

Will I have to pay for daycare while she is with her dad?

Jenn's Question: My Ex has summer vacation visitation rights for the last two weeks of June and July. Will I have to pay for daycare if he chooses to take her to daycare?

Brette's Answer: It depends. If your child is currently in daycare and goes on a regular basis and you pay the cost of that, you might have to continue to pay it. It really is going to depend on how your order reads and who is responsible for daycare costs in general. To draw an analogy, if your order says you are solely responsible for all medical costs and he has to take her to the Doctor while she is with him, you would be responsible for that.

How do I request reimbursement for the child care?

Katie's Question: I'm wondering what the customary documentation is needed to request reimbursement from my children's' father for my work-related child care expenses.

Brette's Answer: If you already have a court order directing him to pay it you simply give him a copy of the bill. If you don't have an order then you'll need to file a petition requesting this.

What if I'm not being reimbursed for the daycare like we agreed?

Kayce's Question: We agreed on a lot of things in mediation, one of the agreements was that he was to pay half of the cost of childcare. I am to send him a copy of the bill and he was to send me half of the payment. Now he is deployed and still gets the bills but the girlfriend refuses to send payment. What am I to do?

Brette's Answer: If the agreement was incorporated into an order, you go to court to enforce it. If there is no order, you go to court to get an order.

Why is he trying to avoid paying for daycare through DHS?

Lucy's Question: My daughter is going through a divorce involving a child. The father does not want to pay for daycare through DHS. In fact, he does not want to use DHS at all and has asked that my daughter trust him. Is there a reason a father would request that he be allowed to pay all daycare expenses and not pay going through DHS?

Brette's Answer: Things that are payable through DHS are readily enforceable by the state. He most likely wants to avoid that. There is no reason not to do this through DHS.

Can he deduct child care from the support if it's not being used?

Melissa's Question: My ex-husband says that he is going to deduct 1/2 of the childcare from my child support check even though I will not be using it. She is in Kindergarten fulltime & I do not need to use the before care & after care program. He states that the court paperwork says that I am responsible for 1/2 of the childcare. Can he do this?

Brette's Answer: If there is no child care, he cannot do this. Child care costs only become an issue when there is an actual child care cost.

Can I ask that he pay me for taking care of our child?

Bella's Question: I don't work and I take care of our child. Can I ask him to pay half of what a child care would be and keep the money?

Brette's Answer: You could certainly ask but it is very unlikely a court would order this. A court could state that you are to be the child care provider of first choice, but not that you should be paid. You could then possibly get an increase in child support. Talk with your attorney to understand what courts in your area would rule. 

Can he file for back child care if I was taking care of the kids?

Jazlynn's Question: My ex has put in a motion that I re-pay him a huge lump sum of back child care costs while he was deployed. During this time, I solely provided care for the kids. And even now, he takes a lot of "vacations" and can't have the kids when he's supposed to. Will the courts actually grant him this, even though I took a huge pay cut and was the only one caring for the children?

Brette's Answer: It sounds like you need to get child support modified to reflect the current situation, so you need to file a petition for that.

Medical Expenses

What does "extraordinary medical expenses" include?

Holly's Question: My ex and I are fighting over medical costs. Our decree states "extraordinary medical expenses not covered by insurance". When our daughter got lice at school I spent almost $100 treating her. Shouldn't he pay his portion on over the counter for things like this? The decree is so vague.

Brette's Answer: The problem is how your court interprets that clause. Does it mean deductibles and co-pays or things like experimental treatments -- things that get pushed through traditional medical insurance? It's unlikely to mean non-prescription meds, but you can certainly make the argument that this is an extraordinary situation (and personally I would agree with you, but I'm not sure how your court is going to interpret this clause). Good luck.

Is he also responsible for half the deductible?

Natasha's Question: If my husband was ordered to pay for half of the children's insurance and I have a very high deductible. Does he also have to pay for that too? Or is it just for half of the insurance and medicine that the kids may need?

Brette's Answer: You should check with your lawyer. Usually the order specifies if he is to pay part of the uncovered expenses. 

What exactly are uncovered medical expenses?

Kinder's Question: Earlier this week, we had to go to mediation because my ex was trying to lower his child support. When I stated that our son would have health insurance through my husband's company, and then asked about my ex paying half of the monthly premium and co-pays, the mediator said that my ex is not responsible for those, but is only responsible for half of the 'uncover medical expenses'. What exactly are uncovered medical expenses then?

Brette's Answer: This would include co-pays and deductibles and things the insurance does not cover (dental, vision, etc.).

Who is responsible for uncovered medical expenses?

Carmela's Question: My husband is responsible for medical insurance on our three kids. He is now saying that I need to pay for 1/2 the bills when they go to the doctors. Is that right if it's not stated on our decree?

Brette's Answer: If your decree does not specify that he is to pay them, or they are to be split, they are considered the responsibility of the primary parent, unless your state law says otherwise. You can ask to have your order modified to share these costs.

Is he responsible for out of pocket expenses if I carry the insurance?

Whitney's Question: We have joint custody with no child support on either side, which was agreed on 7 years ago. We are supposed to split extra-curricular activities and medical. I have had insurance on them through my job for the last 4 years. We are supposed to split the expenses and since I have the insurance on them, isn't he supposed to pay any out of pocket expenses?

Brette's Answer: If your order says you are to share out of pocket costs for medical, dental and extra-curricular then he would be responsible for half. You should start by calling your attorney. Often these kinds of things can be resolved with some phone calls between attorneys. If not, you can go to court for violation and enforcement of the order. 

How do I prove he owes me for half the medical bills?

Imogen's Question: My ex-husband is ordered to pay half of all medical bills for our child. I send him the bills and receipts and over the course of a couple of months he sends in small, various amounts of money via a money order. He owes me a substantial amount of money, but how do I prove what he owes me?

Brette's Answer: You total the bills you sent him for a three month period. You total the cash he sent. Subtract. This shows what he owes. Do it every three months.

Who is required to cover medical expenses if there is no court order?

Shelly's Question: After living with me for the last 13 years, my son has decided to live with his dad. The original child support order required my ex to carry insurance and share 50% of the uninsured expenses. Since the child support order is no longer valid, my ex wants me to pay to have him put on his policy? Who is required to cover medical expenses if there is no court order?

Brette's Answer: You're not required to do anything unless ordered to by the court. My guess is though that if you go to court, you'll be ordered to pay support and provide insurance.

Are medical and daycare expenses included in the child support?

Carrie Asks: Our divorce papers state my ex is to currently pay the medical coverage and half of daycare. These figures were taken into consideration when child support was being figured up. The judge ordered him to pay 500 a month in child support. Is this in addition to his continuing to pay medical coverage and daycare or is it supposed to cover those?

Brette's Answer: It depends on what the order says. If he is directed to continue to pay medical and daycare then that would be in addition to the flat amount.

Are extraordinary medical expenses separate from child support?

Annette's Question: Along the lines of extraordinary medical expenses not covered by insurance. Does this include deductibles, dental bills etc.? I have a court order that states he pays half of all medical and dental expenses and if he fails to pay, he may be forced to pay all of them. My ex is now refusing to pay any medical or dental expenses for his children stating his lawyer advised him it is "included" in his child support payment. Is this true or are the extraordinary medical and dental expenses a separate expense/payment?

Brette's Answer: If the order says he pays half of all medical/dental then that's exactly what that means. It is separate from child support payments.

Do I have to notify him of medical expenses within 30 days?

Angie's Question: My decree stipulates that my ex is responsible for 1/2 our daughter's medical co-pays, prescriptions, and deductibles. He is saying there is a 30/30 rule and if I do not notify him within 30 days of the doctor's visit, he no longer has to pay. I live in Nevada, as does he. Is this true?

Brette's Answer: I don't know if your state has a specific rule about this - you should contact a local attorney. I would say 30 days would be a reasonable amount of time to notify someone of this though.

How long should I wait for him to pay the extra medical expenses?

Georgiana's Question: I am to pay all the children's medical bills throughout the year. At the beginning of the next year I give my ex a bill and he is to pay 70% with the exception of the first $250.00. How long after I give him the bill does he have to pay this? The amount is $5000.00 he owes me and it's been three months.

Brette's Answer: If the order doesn't specify, I would assume a "reasonable" amount of time would be the standard. Since it's late March and you're asking this question, I'm assuming he hasn't paid you for last year. I don't think 3 months is a reasonable period of time so you could file a petition or motion with the court for enforcement/violation to get your money.

Is he liable for 1/2 the medical expenses for our pregnant daughter?

Regina's Question: If a minor child becomes pregnant when living with the custodial mother, is the non-custodial father liable for 1/2 of medical on the minor child relating to the pregnancy?

Brette's Answer: Yes, if he is court ordered to pay the medical expenses.

Is he required to pay for half her braces?

Kristy's Question: My husband's child support states the he is to pay half of what insurance doesn't pay. However, if it is for braces, don't you have to come to a mutual agreement to set up payment plans with the orthodontist? And what happens if she already made the agreement without discussing it with him, and he doesn't have the ability to pay it?

Brette's Answer: If the child support order says he has to pay half, then he has to pay half of the uncovered amount of the braces. He owes the money to his ex-wife, not the orthodontist. If she sets up a payment plan, I would imagine a court would say he has to pay her the amount due each month. If it's simpler, he can certainly pay the orthodontist directly. If he wants to be the one to negotiate the payment schedule with the orthodontist, then he's going to have to be the one who signs it and is responsible to the orthodontist.

Can he deduct orthodontic payments from the child support?

Linda's Question: My ex is threatening to withhold/deduct orthodontic treatment payments from the last 4 months he has to pay child support. He has never given me a bill showing the cost of these treatments that have been going on for the last 1 1/2 years. Can he do that?

Brette's Answer: If you are saying he wants to pay orthodontic bills directly instead of paying your child support, no he has no legal right to do that unless your order permits it. Child support must be paid directly to the other parent. If he is ordered to pay medical costs in addition, those can be paid directly to the provider.

Is it acceptable if he's withholding reimbursement to manipulate me?

Jessica: Our decree says my ex and I are to split uncovered medical expenses. He will often uses these payments as leverage or threats, such as "I am not going to pay you that money until....." and he brings up things that have nothing to do with his obligation or sometimes, even me. The courts will not see this as acceptable reason not to pay, will they?

Brette's Answer: Not at all. He owes the money and is manipulating you.

Do I have to pay half the doctor bills if I share custody?

Brandi's Question: I am a grandparent with joint custody of my 2 grandchildren. The parents say I have to pay 1/2 of the doctor bills, is that true? It doesn't say anything in the court order.

Brette's Answer: That would be part of a child support order, not a custody order. If you have one, read it to see what it says.

Can he deduct health insurance premiums from the child support?

Jennifer's Question: He gets mad every time he has to pay child support because it's less money for him. He thinks he can deduct the amount he pays in insurance from the child support if he gets coverage for her. Can he? And also, the only thing that would be questionable in my situation would be when she's with him I like to go out some times. The judge stated if we decided to go out, to just make sure we had a babysitter. Will this be enough for him to take her from me? He doesn't see her as often as he acts like he wants to because he was unemployed a couple weeks ago. Wouldn't the judge be able to see what he is trying to do to avoid having to pay support?

Brette: If he obtains insurance for your child it does not reduce the amount of child support. If you go out when she is with him and do nothing illegal or dangerous, it shouldn't impact custody. Unemployment would affect his child support payments since his income has changed. » Return to top

Shouldn't he pay more support if my health insurance premiums increase?

Leslie's Question: Because I carried the health care for our family when we divorced, our divorce agreement lists me to carry the insurance.  Since then I have changed jobs and the insurance for my daughter went for $170 per month to $690 per month and my ex refuses to help pay anything towards the cost.  He says insurance was calculated into his child support payment.  Is there anything I can do?

Brette's Answer: You can file for modification of the order. An attorney can help you or you can use forms on the family court website.

Educational Costs and Child Support

Can he be required to pay half of the school tuition?

Trina's Question: My son goes to a private school. Can I have my ex pay 1/2 of tuition in addition to child support?

Brette's Answer: You can request it as an educational expense.

Am I forced to pay for private schooling if I don't agree?

Carla's Question: I want to take our 2 preschoolers out of private school and enroll them into our assigned public elementary school instead.  If my husband does not agree, am I forced to pay for private school or would he have to pay for this himself?

Brette: It depends on how your child support order is written. He could also contest your decision to do this and ask the court to decide where they should go to school. 

Does he still have to pay tuition if she goes to a different school?

Teresa's Question: If the divorce papers read Husband shall pay tuition fees and ballet fees at a specific school, does he still not have to pay if she changes schools?

Brette's Answer: I would suggest getting your order updated to remove the school name and just specify what he is responsible for paying in terms of tuition and lessons.

Can he stop paying me the tuition amount once they leave private school?

Mary's Question: My ex and I have 50/50 time with our two girls. He makes a lot more money than I do and the agreement states that he pays to keep the girls in the private school they’ve attended since preschool. Both girls will be graduating from the school next fall and going to public school. Their father doesn’t think he should have to continue paying me the tuition amount once they leave private school. As it is, he only pays a small fraction of what the legal payment scale requires since he’s been making up the difference in tuition. Can he get away with this?

Brette's Answer: If the order states he is to pay for school he's obligated to do that, but if there is no tuition it would seem he wouldn't owe the money, but you need an attorney to review that order with you and interpret it. You should talk to an attorney about asking for an increase in child support if you feel it's not enough.

Is the cost of the Driver's Ed class covered by child support?

Laura's Question: My ex provides child support each week and has for the past 10 years. Our oldest daughter needs to go through a $600 driver's education course to get her license. I believe, since this expense is outside the normal care costs, should be split between us. He feels his child support payments cover it. Who is right?

Brette's Answer: If your order says you are to share educational costs this would be covered under that. If it doesn't, then it is outside of the order. You could seek to have the order modified. Good luck.

Should I include a provision for college expenses?

Kara's Question: I was told by many people to never forget to ask about "college" and/or Future Education costs for the future for our daughter who is now 4yrs old. I know it's a LONG ways away, but why would I want to have to open up this case again just to get some money out of him in the future? My lawyer says that this thinking is VERY PREMATURE and I shouldn't even be thinking about that.

Brette's Answer: As for college, it is difficult to predict what your financial situations are going to be 14 years from now. You can insert a provision saying college costs will be shared and determined at a later date. If your daughter ends up going to Harvard, you don't want to commit today to paying 50% of that b/c it's unlikely you could afford it. But if she goes to a community college, it would be very doable for you to contribute.

Can child support be changed to include college?

Julie: In our divorce agreement it says he is only responsible to pay support until our son is 18. How can I go about getting money from him for college?

Brette's Answer: File for a modification of support. Good luck.

Can I sue for 1/2 of college expenses based on a verbal agreement?

Chris' Question: My ex and I had a verbal agreement that he would pay for half of our boys college expenses. When our younger son moved in with his Dad and wife at 17 she refused to pay for any of the first son's college expenses stating that they were going to have "to support this kid while he lives on our sofa and does nothing." He ended up moving out after 4 months. Can I sue for 1/2 of college expenses based on a verbal agreement?

Brette's Answer: You don't have a court order for this, so no; family court would have nothing to go on.

Can I get paid back for last year's college expenses if he didn't pay?

Robin's Question: My ex was court ordered to pay 1/2 of college expenses for our twins and they start their 2nd year of college in 2 months. When I file for contempt, can I get reimbursed for the amount for last year? Also my youngest is in private high school due to autism diagnosed after the divorce. Is he responsible for these school expenses as well?

Brette's Answer: He is responsible for 1/2 of all college expenses if that is what your order says, so that would include last year. If you do not have an order about high school, you can seek a modification asking for payments for that as well.

Can a child petition to enforce the support agreement regarding tuition?

Elyse's Question: My Mom and Dad have been divorced for about 7 years now. In their agreement it states he must pay for 8 semesters of school for my sister and me. He has only paid a small amount because he gets angry at me and feels like I'm not worth paying since I cannot attend full time. He has also stopped paying for my sister now and we have decided we'd like to take him to court. How should we go about this?

Brette's Answer: Your mother has to be the one to enforce the order. She can file a violation/enforcement petition. Good luck.

What can I do if he closed the college plan account?

Sarah's Question: In our court order my ex-husband and I both pay equally into a college plan for our kids with my half of the payment being taken out of my check and sent to my ex-husband who is responsible for the payments made monthly. He has since informed me he has liquidated the accounts for our kids and is "keeping track" of how much should be in them and will give them the money when they start college. The order states it is to be in an account. What are my options?

Brette's Answer: File for a violation of the support order with the court. » Return to top

Extraordinary expenses and child support

Does paying support release him from paying for other expenses?

Janine's Question: If my ex pays child support, does it dismiss his responsibility to contribute 1/2 the cost for "extra" big ticket items such as: first car, driver's training, band camp, etc.? I am on public assistance, but my ex refuses to help with the expenses of these larger items. He cites his monthly child support payments for his reason to be excluded from these expenses.

Brette's Answer: It depends on what the child support order says. Generally the parent paying child support is required to pay only the specified monthly amount, unless the order specifically says that other expenses are to be divided by the parents. If your order does not specify, you can file for a modification to include these items.

Is he responsible for paying half the school lunches if we share custody?

Nikki's Question: Since we have joint physical custody, is he responsible for paying for 1/2 of the children's lunches during school hours? And what about clothes, cell phones, cars for them, and auto insurance for the kids? He says the child support covers that.

Brette's Answer: Unless specifically stated, child support does not include additional expenses. You can ask to modify your order to include certain shared expenses. 

Shouldn't the extraordinary expenses be split between the parents?

Julie's Question: My fiancé pays more than twice the standard support because the mom stated the children required additional money, and she was the one who they spend most of their time with. In the decree it states "this Court must state findings in support of a deviation from the presumed guidelines the Court finds that the physical, medical, educational and extracurricular needs and activities of the children require additional expenses incurred by the Plaintiff". Their daughter participates in high school rodeos, which the mother refuses to pay anything towards. My fiancé ends up spending an additional $300 - $500 a weekend for rodeo expenses. Shouldn't some of this expense be included under "extracurricular needs"?

Brette's Answer: Yes, I agree with you.

Can support be adjusted to cover extracurricular activities?

Rachel's Question: My work hours were recently reduced and I'm making 20% less salary. I want to bring my ex back to court for the children's extracurricular activities (dance, cheerleading, little league, etc.). My ex is claiming he cannot afford the extras. Do I have a case?

Brette's Answer: You can definitely ask. The court will consider both financial pictures and adjust child support accordingly.

Do I have to pay for half the activity if I didn't agree to it?

Kenee's Question: My ex is demanding that I pay for our sons motocross bike (that he bought and keeps) race entry fees and parts and service. I have never been asked or agreed to support motocross racing (too dangerous!) Anyway, this is what our decree states word for word. "The parties agree to pay one-half of any costs associated with the extracurricular activities of the parties' minor child of which the parties **AGREE** to allow their son to participate." Am I right in thinking it is not my responsibility to pay for these things?

Brette's Answer: Generally, if your ex enrolls your child in something without your input, it would seem he would be responsible for that cost. That is how I would read that provision, but a court could interpret it differently.

What if he won't pay his 50% of the extraordinary expenses?

Kathy's Question: Our divorce papers say he is liable for 50% of all extraordinary expenses. We've been divorced over 18 months and he hasn't paid a dime. I send him monthly invoices to show where the money goes - sports, school supplies, etc. How do I collect on that?

Brette's Answer: File with the court for enforcement/violation.

Is a child's car insurance included in child support?

Mary Anne's Question: Is a child's car insurance included in child support? My ex refuses to help pay for her insurance because he says it is included in child support. She needs the car to drive to college.

Brette's Answer: He would not be required to pay for this unless the court order specified so. You can seek to modify to include it. »Return to top

Remarriage and Child Support

Will his new marriage affect the amount of support?

Tahisha's Question: My ex-husband is getting remarried. We have three children (9, 8 &3). The court ordered him to pay child support and alimony. Would this change?

Brette's Answer: Your spouse's remarriage should have no effect on your current situation.

Am I obligated to pay him child support after he remarries?

Ashley's Question: How does re-marriage affect child support? For instance, I pay child support and my ex gets married to another person, am I still obligated to pay child support since I am single and only have one income as opposed to my ex being married and having essentially two incomes?

Brette: Child support can be readjusted due to a change in household income, but it likely won't be eliminated.

Will I still receive child support payments if I remarry?

Lynette's Question: Currently I receive child support for my two children from their father. I am due to get married soon and want to know am I still entitled to continue receiving my child support?

Brette's Answer: Yes

Will my remarriage be a qualifying event to modify child support?

Ashley's Question: Can my ex use my marriage to another man as a qualifying event to modify child support?

Brette's Answer: Yes, because your household income has changed.

Can child support be based on my new spouse's income?

Jennifer's Question: After our divorce, my son lived with me for 7 years, and I went for about 16 months with no child support. Two years ago, my son chose to live with his father. My ex is now threatening to enforce that my current husband pay child support based on his salary. Is this possible?

Brette's Answer: Your current husband has no legal obligation to support your son from a previous marriage. You are the only one who has that legal obligation. His income, though, is part of the household income. The court will follow your state laws in calculating child support based on these numbers.

Is the spouse of a non-custodial parent required to pay support?

Kay's Question: Under what circumstances is the spouse of the non-custodial parent required to pay? I do not want to be responsible, liable, or have any share in paying his child support responsibilities.

Brette's Answer: The parent of the children is the one who is legally liable to pay the support. His household income is calculated when determining child support. That may include income brought in by his spouse. However the order for payment applies only to him. You have no responsibility to his child, but marital assets can be attached if he becomes delinquent on child support. » Return to top

Stopping Child Support

Can child support be stopped at the request of the custodial parent?

Debbie's Question: If there is an active order, can the custodial parent ask to have child support discontinued?

Brette's Answer: Call the office of child support enforcement and ask them if you can't afford an attorney. In most states you can opt out of child support with court approval.

Can I stop the child support if he willingly pays more than required?

Jessica's Question: If my ex and I are working out our issues and he is taking full responsibility for the 2 girls, can I stop the child support? At this time he is doing way more than his support amount.

Brette's Answer: A child support is a nice order to have in place in case you ever stop cooperating. The order will always allow you to collect that basic amount, and never have to worry about it. I suggest you talk to your attorney before doing anything.

Can I cancel the child support if I'm on public assistance?

Nerissa's Question: I'm currently separated from my husband. I applied for public assistance since I am in school and don't work. He wants me to cancel the child support order, saying that he will give me the money directly. How would I go about doing this, and will it affect my public assistance?

Brette's Answer: Generally if you are on public assistance, you cannot usually end child support. You should talk with your caseworker about this.

Does a parent have to pay support if there is no visitation or contact?

Kim's Question: My husband gave his ex-wife sole custody and has not had any contact or seen his daughter in almost 4 years. She told my husband she was going to have her husband adopt the child but refuses to give up the support. If you have no visitation or contact with your children do you still need to pay support?

Brette's Answer: Yes, you do. If the child is adopted then support would end.

Can I stop child support if my kids want nothing to do with me?

Mary's Question: My children are 18 and 20. They have nothing to do with me, ignore every card, gift, letter or gesture I make towards them. The father has never complied with any court orders. One child hasn’t spoken to me in four years. Can I end child support to these people who clearly want nothing to do with me?

Brette's Answer: You can seek to modify the order in court but you can't just stop paying or you will be in contempt of court.

Can he stop paying child support without going to court?

Susan's Question: Can my ex-husband stop paying his child support if he takes a leave of absence from his job without having the court modify it?

Brette's Answer: No. Child support is payable unless and until the court modifies it.

Can he stop support if she lives with him during the school year?

Dawn's Question: My daughter wants to go live with her dad for one school year and then come back. In the divorce I was awarded custody and do receive support from him. Could he stop paying support while she lives with him during that temporary time?

Brette's Answer: Yes he could seek a modification.

Is he still obligated if the child support orders weren't cancelled?

Sharon's Question: I remarried the father of my daughter. We lived together for only four months and then separated. Will he still be obligated to pay support if the court order was never cancelled?

Brette's Answer: Unless he seeks to have it modified, it will still be in force. » Return to top

Child Support Tax Information

Can my ex withhold child support funds to pay past due taxes?

Susan's Question: Can my ex withhold and use child support funds to pay past due taxes on the marital home? I live in and own the marital home as ordered in the divorce. He is still on the mortgage. The property taxes are paid to the town not the mortgage company. I have fallen behind on the taxes and he has been withholding my child support and forwarding it to the town for tax payments.

Brette's Answer: No. Child support is payable only to you (or the state child support collection agency). You can have the court enforce the order.

Is the amount of child support affected if we file our taxes jointly?

Chris's Question: My husband and I are currently separated, and he has been ordered to pay child support. We did try to reconcile last year and he talked me into filing a joint tax return. Will that affect the child support order?

Brette's Answer: No. Your child support order is in effect even if you file a joint tax return or temporarily reconcile.

Is child support taxable?

Question: Do I need to pay taxes on received child support?

Brette's Answer: Child support is not taxable income. » Return to questions

Can I get separate child support and alimony payments due to taxes?

Heidi's Question: My child support and alimony are paid together in one payment every month. I am being heavily taxed on this payment. Is there a way so I can separate the two payments without going to court or do I have to file a motion to do so? I feel that I should only be taxed on the alimony not child support.

Brette's Answer: Child support is not taxable income. If you are being paid through the state collection department, you should contact them and ask them to correct this. If your order does not separate the two payments out, you'll need to talk with your attorney to get it changed.

Can he amend his taxes to change the child support to maintenance?

Kerri's Question: My ex is threatening to amend his taxes and change child support payments to maintenance to make it taxable for me Can he do this?

Brette's Answer: It's not up to him to decide what is tax deductible and taxable. It's governed by how the payments are described in your decree. What he does with his taxes does not affect yours. (Update: Alimony payments in divorces finalized after 2019 are no longer tax deductible or taxable)


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