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single dad child support lawIn many divorce cases where a couple has children, it is assumed that the father will pay child support to the mother. However, this isn’t always the case. In many modern families, dads and moms play equal roles in caring for their kids, and they should continue to do so after they become separated or get divorced. Depending on the circumstances, some dads may even be named the custodial parent of their children and have the majority of the parenting time with their kids after getting divorced or breaking up with an unmarried partner. In these types of situations, dads will need to be sure to understand their rights regarding child support.

Child Support for Dads Who Have Primary Physical Custody or Shared Custody

The purpose of child support is to ensure that both parents contribute toward their children’s needs. Typically, the parent who the children live with the majority of the time will receive child support from the other parent. This means that if your children stay with you most of the time, you may have the right to receive child support from your ex-spouse. Even if you were not married to your children’s mother, both of you will be required to provide financial support for your children, and as the custodial parent, you can ask a family court judge to enforce these obligations.

Depending on the state where you live, different methods may be used to calculate the amount of child support you can receive from your child’s mother. Some states determine child support using a percentage of the non-custodial parent’s income. However, many states are shifting to an income-sharing model that takes the amount earned by both parents into account. In these cases, an amount of child support will usually be determined based on what both parents would have spent to care for their children if they were still together. This amount will usually be divided between the parents based on the amount of income each parent earns. If you are the custodial parent, your ex will be required to pay her portion of the total child support amount to you.

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dad's divorce and child custody attorneyWhen it comes to divorce, many dads worry that they face an uphill battle. Culturally, mothers are often considered to be the parents who are most concerned with childcare and household responsibilities. This means that even when a dad plays an equal role in raising his children, he may need to fight against the assumption the mother should have primary custody. To make matters worse, a father may worry that he will be considered a deadbeat due to his absence from his children’s lives.

Whether you are currently going through the divorce process or have completed your divorce, you’ll want to make sure that you can continue to be the father your children deserve. The last thing you want is for your children to feel that you are not there when they need you. To avoid the possibility of being considered a deadbeat dad, you’ll want to do the following:

  • Pay child support on time - The most common reason that dads are labeled deadbeats is that they don’t pay child support as required. Even if you think that it’s unfair that a large percentage of your income will be going to your ex, remember that the money is being used to provide for your kids’ needs. If you don’t pay child support on time or in full, you will still be required to pay the full amount owed, along with interest on late payments. Failure to pay child support could also cause you to be held in contempt of court, which could lead to a variety of consequences, including time in prison. If you have lost your job or experienced other financial issues that affect your ability to pay, you’ll want to bring this matter to the court’s attention immediately to ensure that you won’t be penalized.

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child and spousal support divorced dads lawIf you are a father who is going through the divorce process, you’ll probably be concerned about your finances. In addition to dealing with the costs of the divorce itself, including legal fees and expenses related to finding new living arrangements, you’re going to need to create a new budget to determine how you can cover your ongoing expenses. In the midst of all of this, you may also have to deal with requirements to pay child support or spousal support, and you’ll want to understand when these types of payments are appropriate and how they are calculated.

The Purpose of Financial Support

Being required to pay support to your ex-spouse may seem like a punishment or penalty. However, this is usually not the reason that financial support is ordered. Instead, these payments are meant to ensure that you, your ex, and your children will all have the financial resources you need. 

Child support is paid for the benefit of children, ensuring that they will be provided for after their parents’ divorce. Each state has different laws that specify how child support obligations are calculated, but the amount of payments is usually based on the income that each parent earns, as well as the amount of parenting time children spend with each parent. While the parent who has more parenting time will usually receive child support from the other, this is not always the case. If you earn less than your ex, she could be required to pay child support to you, depending on the methods used to calculate child support in your state.

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divorced dad budgeting tipsGetting a divorce can wreak havoc on your finances. The costs involved in separating your life from your spouse can be significant, especially if you will be moving to a new home, setting up utilities, and purchasing items such as furniture or cooking utensils. When you add in the legal costs involved in the divorce process and any child support or spousal support payments that you will be required to make, you may wonder how you will be able to support yourself on a single income. Fortunately, with the proper financial preparation, you can determine how to live comfortably while meeting your needs and continuing to be a great parent for your children. Creating a workable budget is crucial during this time, and it can give you reassurance that you will be able to maintain financial security both right now and in the future.

Things to Keep in Mind When Creating a Budget

  1. Fully document your income and expenses - Tracking the income you earn and everything you spend money on will help you form a complete picture of your financial situation. Understanding the net income you take home after taxes, health insurance premiums, and support payments that are deducted from your paychecks will let you know how much you have to work with. You can then look at everything you spend money on, including food, utilities, rent or mortgage payments, car insurance, life insurance, gas or transportation, clothing, entertainment, medical expenses such as doctor visits or prescriptions, and expenses related to your children, such as school fees, extracurricular activities, clothing, or toys. Fully understanding all aspects of your finances can help you make sure you will be able to cover your ongoing expenses.

  2. Determine where you can cut back - As you adjust to your new financial situation, you may begin to look at the steps you can take to reduce your expenses. This may include cooking at home more often instead of eating out, utilizing sales and coupons when shopping for food or clothing, or foregoing expensive purchases for the time being.

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Myths about child custody and child support for dadsIt has been a commonly repeated idea for decades that women generally receive custody of children more frequently than men do. There are several reasons why this has been historically true. However, societal perceptions and state laws are both changing, and in most cases, these changes are to the benefit of the children. There is a significant amount of misinformation that persists when discussing the rights of fathers, and it is important to understand why some particularly pervasive myths are just that—myths.

Myth: Fathers Almost Never Get Custody

It depends on the applicable definition of “never,” but generally, this is untrue. The most recent available Census statistics show that fathers represent around one in five custodial parents—an improvement over the 16 percent of custodial parents reported in 1994. However, studies indicate that dads simply do not ask for custody as often as mothers do, and courts generally do not award what is not asked for in that regard.

A Massachusetts study examined 2,100 fathers who asked for custody and pushed aggressively to win it. Of those 2,100, 92 percent either received full or joint custody, with mothers receiving full custody only 7 percent of the time. Another study where 8 percent of fathers asked for custody showed that of that 8 percent, 79 percent received either sole or joint custody (in other words, approximately 6.3 percent of all fathers in the study). 

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Modifying child support after losing your jobThe coronavirus pandemic has affected nearly everyone in the United States, and in addition to concerns about how an infection can impact your health and well-being, you may also be experiencing financial difficulties. Stay-at-home and shelter-in-place orders have forced many businesses to close, and many people have lost their jobs or seen reductions in the income they earn. In fact, unemployment rates have risen to levels that have not been seen in the U.S. since the Great Depression. If you have lost your job or experienced a reduction in income, you will likely be concerned about how this will affect your child support obligations.

Requirements to Pay Court-Ordered Child Support

If you have been ordered to pay child support following your divorce or after separating from your child’s other parent, these orders will remain in effect, regardless of your employment status. This means that even if you lose your job, you will still be required to pay child support owed, and if you miss any payments, you will be required to make them up in the future, and you may also owe interest on late payments.

However, even though you will still have the obligation to provide financial support for your children, family courts will most likely recognize that changes in the income you earn have affected your ability to pay. You may be able to pursue a modification of your child support order based on your new circumstances. Any changes to child support may take other forms of income into account, including unemployment benefits you earn, government stimulus payments, or other assets you own that could be used to meet your children’s needs. If your ex-spouse has also experienced a job loss or employment issues, the child support modifications may also take these factors into account.

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