Shuck72 has over 20 years of experience working in the child support industry and working with clients on tax issues.
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. For How Long Will I Need to Make Child Support Payments?
If you are paying child support you should have a child support order. This order will contain a paragraph stating what the conditions are for terminating child support. 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 graduation from high school, whichever comes later. Some also have a stipulation that support 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 for the paying parent to be able to claim the child as a dependent, however, the child support order will have to stipulate this. The right to claim a dependent is not automatically granted and the custodial parent must be in agreement.
Some government agencies and programs other than the IRS, such as student aid programs or public assistance programs like 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 a pending eviction notice, 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 workaround, 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 for whom you are paying child support, 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 six months before you tell them, you will not be refunded any child support that was 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, for example the loss of a job, a promotion, the paying parent being incarcerated, and so on. 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.
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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 is 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 that 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 that 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 one's 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.
This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. Content is for informational or entertainment purposes only and does not substitute for personal counsel or professional advice in business, financial, legal, or technical matters.
Parent of 2 on July 13, 2017:
The ex has full custody and she does not pay rent because they live with the parents. On the legal court documents she stated head of house hold which I know is false. They also claimed loss of job, but they quit in order to get higher child support. I have another child from a different relationship that I provide support for but the other parent never filed and we have an agreement. The case worker stated that the other parent has to file since that child is first born and state of California will give higher support to the first born. I also want the child support for the second child to go in to a bank account I can monitor because the parent of that child stated that the money will be spend however including thing for them self. I want custody but was not given custody because of the age of the child. I know the other parent is unfit but proof is hard. I guess my question is what kind of proof do I need and if the parent of my first child does not want to submit court documents for child support what do I need to take?
shuck72 (author) from Seattle on March 23, 2013:
No food stamps won't affect your child support one way or the other. Even if she wasn't working they should have imputed wages to her when they set your child support amount. If you think you are paying too much you should modify your child support order taking her new income into account.
andrew on March 22, 2013:
If the ex loses food stamps will my obligation of child support increase if she started work too?
shuck72 (author) from Seattle on May 30, 2012:
RK12 In order to protect yourself legally you should take the steps to modify the parenting plan changing you to the custodial parent if the child is now living with you.
Even if you don't pay child support through the state you can call the child support agency in the state you live in and ask the general questions regarding your situation. The laws really do vary from State to State quite a bit so you need to learn the rules in the state you live.
Thanks for the question and I hope things go well for you.
RK12 on May 30, 2012:
In the article it says if the child comes to live with you, you should contact the child support agency to notify them. In my case I pay support directly to my ex, we did not want the state involved due to past experience. Would I need to go to court to get the divorce settlement changed? I know the state won't come after me when I stop paying but I'm thinking about safeguards in case my ex tries to take me to court when I stop paying.
shuck72 (author) from Seattle on May 02, 2012:
Abdul, child support does not stop if the child moves to a different country because parental obligations have no borders. A child needs to be supported in whatever country they live in.
abdul on May 02, 2012:
why some people still paying child support if the child move to another country.