This article was contributed by:
Erika Englund – Cooperative Divorce Attorney-Mediator
Five Important and Totally Effective Ways to Reduce Conflict Over Child Support
Getting an order for child support seems like it should end financial conflicts – but often, it’s just the beginning. Paying, tracking, and allocating child support has the potential to create a lot of conflict between divorced parents. But, there are buffers you can put in place to reduce stress, increase compliance, and protect yourself. Here are five simple considerations for reducing conflict over child support:
- If your state allows it, settle child support by agreement rather than attending a hearing and arguing in front of a judge. When support is set by agreement, there is a greater likelihood of compliance and a lesser likelihood of conflict, court battles, and attorney fees in the future. Bonus tip: familiarize yourself with your state’s guideline formula.
- Don’t forget the details: An order should specify when support begins, the days upon which it is payable, and the amount of support that is allocated to each child. When support is allocated between children, as each child ages out of support, the order automatically adjusts without the need to return to court or file an updated order.
- Understand that child support is simply for base living expenses. All “extra” expenses, such as educational, athletic, extracurricular, medical, dental, child care, and tuition expenses, are paid on top of the support order.
- Be specific about which extra expenses are split. Simply listing that “all” extra expenses are shared can lead to conflicts about whether something was an “authorized” expense. Track your payments and expenses through SupportPay, so that you have a clear record, can easily resolve disputes, and you don’t need to talk with your ex about money.
First, identify every extra expense a child might incur — from yearbooks and prom, to auto insurance and diapers for daycare. Then, specify whether each cost will be split equally, paid by one parent alone, or split proportional to income. Simply listing that “all” extra expenses are shared can lead to conflicts about whether something was an “authorized” expense.
Include specifics, such as “the parents shall share all medical, dental, orthodontic, counseling, and vision expenses, except that, Mother shall pay 100% of chiropractic costs.” Or, “All educational expenses shall be equally shared, including but not limited to, tuition, fees, field trips, yearbooks, uniforms, required donations or fundraisers, outfits for school dances, and graduation costs. The child’s car insurance shall be a joint expense, but Father shall be liable for all other auto expeneses, including gas, costs, maintenance, and use.”
5. Ask for your child support order to compel each parent to use SupportPay to track payment of support and expenses. Reliable tracking benefits parents and children by lowering conflict, increasing payment compliance, encouraging quick reimbursement of extra expenses, and providing an alternative to face-to-face discussions. Also, SupportPay keeps clear, court-admissable records, needing in the event of any dispute.
Talking to your former spouse about money can be contentious for even the most amicable co-parents. Whatever your relationship with your former spouse, protect yourself from conflict and confusion by implementing these five ideas. Have more creative ways to reduce conflict over support? Please shout out @divorceably on Twitter.
Erika Anne Englund, Cooperative Divorce Attorney-Mediator
Creating a better divorce for better people since 2008