Dads and Child Support

Will I pay child support as a divorced father?

Understanding Financial Obligations for Children During Divorce

As a dad going through a divorce, child support is probably one of your top concerns. But this doesn't mean you're a deadbeat; it just means that you are rightfully worried about your ability to provide for your children while meeting your own financial needs. As you proceed with the divorce process, you'll need to know how the laws affect you, and you'll want to make sure to understand how the details of both parents' finances will affect the calculation of child support.

While it's true that dads are often expected to pay child support to moms after divorce, this belief is rooted in the ways families functioned in past generations. Because the father was usually the "breadwinner" of a family, and the mother would stay in the home and take charge of raising the kids, mothers would often be granted sole or primary custody of children in a divorce, and fathers would pay them a percentage of their income. However, this arrangement is now out of date, since in many modern families, both parents have careers, and they share equally in raising and caring for the children. Because of this, child support arrangements may also need to be adjusted from how they were handled in the past.

Child Support Laws

As with just about every aspect of divorce, the laws regarding child support will differ depending on the state where you live. In the past, child support was often a fairly simple calculation, with the supporting parent (usually the father) being required to pay a certain percentage of their income to the other parent. However, in many states, the divorce laws are catching up to reality and recognizing that both parents often earn an income to support their children and their household.

In states that use an "income sharing" method of determining child support, a variety of formulas, tables, and calculations may be used to figure out the amount needed to meet children's needs based on what both parents earn. Decisions about the physical custody of children may also play a role in these determinations, especially in cases when children spend equal or near-equal amounts of time with each parent. In these cases, each parent's percentage of parenting time may be a factor in the formulas used to calculate child support, or state laws may state that if parents have equal custody, neither will pay child support to the other.

What Is Included in Child Support?

There are typically two levels of child support, with the first meant to address children's basic needs, and the second meant to cover additional expenses. The formulas in state laws are usually used to calculate a "basic child support obligation," and this amount is meant to go toward daily needs such as food, clothing, and shelter.

Additional expenses refer to other costs associated with raising children, including medical expenses (medical insurance, co-pays for doctor visits, medication, etc.), educational expenses (books, school supplies, uniforms), childcare needed while a parent is working (daycare, nanny, babysitters), and extracurricular activities (fees or supplies for clubs, music lessons, sports, etc.). These expenses will usually be divided between the parents.

One other child-related expense that parents may need to consider is the cost of attending college. Depending on state laws, divorced parents may be required to contribute a certain amount toward children's tuition, room, and board, as well as expenses such as books, supplies, transportation, entrance exams, and test preparation courses.

Addressing Child Support as a Dad

Even though your ex may expect you to pay child support, this will not automatically be the end result of your divorce. You will want to work toward a resolution to your divorce that will protect your children's best interests, and in some cases, this may mean there will be no child support obligations, or if you have a majority of the parenting time or earn a lower income, you may receive child support from your ex. If you will be paying child support, you'll want to make sure the amount of support is calculated correctly, taking all relevant factors into account, including the income you and your ex earn, regular expenses for both you and your kids, and other costs that you may need to address. By working with a skilled attorney during the divorce process, you can ensure that your children will have the financial support they need from both parents once your divorce is complete.

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