Top Ten Child Support Questions
Child Support payments are a significant financial burden but an important one for the well being of your child. Child Support rules, laws, and policies can be confusing. Below are ten of the most common child support payment-related questions I have encountered over the last twelve years working in the child support enforcement industry.
1. How Long Do I Have Make Child Support Payments?
If you are paying Child Support you should have a child support order. Within this order there will be a paragraph stating what the termination of child support terms are. This can vary widely from state to state and order to order, so you should review the language for your particular circumstance.
In most states the default is 18 or graduates from high school, whichever comes later. Some also have a stipulation that it terminates at 19 no matter what.
2. Do I Have to Claim Child Support Payments on My Taxes?
This is a common question and no, child support is not considered income for purposes of filing your taxes. The custodial parent does not have to claim child support received nor is the paying parent able to deduct the child support paid.
Although the paying parent is not allowed to deduct child support paid on their taxes it is quite common for them to be granted the right to claim the child as a dependent. Typically each parent claims the child every other year. In order to claim the child however, it will need to stipulate this in the child support order, it is not automatically granted and the custodial parent must be in agreement.
*Some other government agencies and programs, such as student aid programs or public assistance programs such as food stamps, may require a parent to report child support.
3. Will the IRS Take My Tax Refund If I Owe Back Child Support Payments?
Yes, typically if you owe past due child support payments in excess of $250 and have an active child support case with a child support agency any refund will be intercepted and applied to your debt. This will occur even if you have a payment agreement in place with the child support agency.
However, you may, in many instances request that all or some of the money intercepted be refunded to you. Typically the Child Support Agency will consider this option if you can prove sufficient financial hardship such as the loss of a job or pending eviction notices for example. You should contact the Child Support Agency handling your case to ask what their policy is on returning intercepted tax refunds.
As a wor around, you may also consider lowering your IRS withholding amounts so that you break even or owe a small amount at the end of the year instead of getting a large refund that will be intercepted.
4. What Happens If the Child Comes To Live With Me?
Typically child support will not accrue when the child lives with you if you have physical custody. This rule varies from state to state however, in some states physical custody automatically suspends child support, in other states a new parenting plan must be officially filed with the court changing the custodial parent from one parent to the other.
If you get physical custody of the child you are paying child support for you should contact the child support agency in your state immediately and inform them. They should provide you with your their policy on how to proceed with stopping child support.
*It is your responsibility to inform the child support agency of any custody changes. If you wait 6 months and then tell them you will not be refunded any child support collected in good faith.
5. Does My Child Support Get Automatically Adjusted if I Lose My Job?
Child Support does not automatically change if you lose your job. It is the parties' responsibility to request a modification if there is a significant change in circumstances which would include loss of a job, a promotion, the paying parent being incarcerated, etc. Child support remains the same until one of the parties moves to modify the child support order.
If you do have a significant change in your income you should contact the child support agency in your state. They will be able to provide you with several options on how to have your child support order modified.
6. Do I Have to Pay Child Support if My Child Is With Me in the Summer?
In most cases you do continue paying child support even if the child is living with you in the summer. The reason being that the court assumes the other parent still incurs the cost of maintaining the child's primary residence during the summer months.
Some child support orders, however, do have specific language which grant a summer abatement. For instance, the order may state specifically that child support is suspended during the months of July and August.
If you routinely have your child for summer visitation you should ask an attorney about adding summer abatement language to your child support order.
7. Can I Deduct Clothes and Other Expenses From The Child Support?
You cannot deduct items you purchase for the child from the child support amount. If you purchase items such as diapers, shoes, toys it is considered a voluntary gift and credit will not be granted against the child support.
8. Can I Make The Custodial Parent Provide Receipts?
Some parents paying child support often request to see receipts for how the child support is spent. Although the court can request to see receipts it rarely if ever does. It is assumed if the child is dressed, fed and sheltered appropriately then the child support money is being used appropriately.
If you truly feel the child is not being cared for your should contact your state's Child Protective Service Agency.
9. Do I Have to Pay Child Support If I Am Denied Visitation?
Child Support and Visitation are completely separate issues in the eyes of the court. Meaning, if you don't pay child support you still have the right to see your child. It also means if the custodial parent denies you visitation you do not have the right to withhold child support.
You should have what is called a parenting plan which instructs the parties what the visitation requirements are, such as every other weekend, etc. If the custodial parent is not abiding by the parenting plan then you may file contempt charges against the custodial parent for disobeying a court order.
There are also often non-profit agencies that will facilitate mediating visitation disputes. If you are having trouble with visitation issues, contact the child support agency in your state and request a list of non-profit agencies in your area that provide family visitation mediation services.
10. What Collection Actions Can Child Support Take?
In our society, supporting ones child financially is seen as an important and valuable ideal. For that reason the government has given child support agencies a wide range of collection tools. If you willfully do not pay your child support you can expect the following actions to take place in order:
1. Payroll deduction (many states require this even if you are paying)
2. Credit reporting and IRS refund interception
3. Liens being placed on property
4. Bank freezes
5. License suspension
6. Vehicle seizure
7. Contempt charges which may result in jail time.
However, most if not all of these collection actions can be avoided if you simply communicate with the child support agency handling your case. And, if you truly cannot pay your court-ordered child support amount at least pay something and let the child support agency know you need help modifying your order to something you can actually afford.