Confessions of a Divorced Dad: 'Take Your Child Support and ...'
The bane of the existence for most divorced dads is child support.
Let's be honest, no one enjoys handing over a portion of each of their paychecks to anyone, much less a person with whom they are embroiled in, shall we say, emotional issues.
OK, that's a nice way of saying there is a good chance you don't want to be in the same room with your ex, at least in the first weeks and months following a separation.
But there are ways in which paying child support can be significantly less painful.
Here are some "DOs" and "DON'Ts" to follow to ease your anxiety and avoid major problems.
DON'T -- Bounce a check
Oh, for the love of heaven don't bounce a check. All this does is invite conflict with your ex. She will be furious (rightly so) and you'll be defensive and this will not be good for your children.
DO -- Have a written agreement regarding the amount of child support
Get a legal separation agreement, even if you think there is a chance the two of you might reconcile. None of us enjoys going to court but this is the best way for you and your ex to make sure the issue of child support is handled fairly.
There is a strict financial formula to calculate child support in Massachusetts. Don't debate the figure with your ex. Just submit HONEST financial to the courts and let them give you a number.
DON'T -- Use your child as a courier
You might be tempted to avoid contact with your ex but the last thing you want to do is make your child part of the process. Don't have them an envelope and tell them to give it to their mother. It's not their job.
DO: Get a receipt
This is critical. It's better to use a check than cash but in either case, get a signed receipt from your ex. It protects you and her and generally helps avoid problems.
DON'T: Use child support as a weapon
Remember that by withholding child support from your ex for even a month, you are not only hurting her but you are hurting your child.
Again, you and your ex managed to mess up your marriage and split the family. It's not your child's fault and they should, in no way, have to pay a price.
DO: Have child support taken out of paycheck automatically by the state
This is the most valuable piece of advice I can give to you on the issue of child support.
If you happen to fall behind on child support payments, your ex can file a complaint with the state and the state will begin to garnish your wages. That is to say they will begin to take money from your paycheck automatically, with the help of your employer. They will take a little more than what you usually pay each week until the back child support is paid off.
This happened to me a couple of years after my divorce, as a result of being unemployed. At the time, I thought it was pretty embarrassing. But then something strange happened -- I began to realize that having the state handle my child support was a HUGE blessing.
I didn't have to hand a check to ex. I didn't have to worry about receipts or falling behind. The state sent her checks every two weeks!
Suddenly, there were no more fights about child support and my anxiety level dropped significantly.
My take-home pay, while lower, was MY take home pay.
So as soon as my back child support was taken care of, I contacted the Department of Revenue Child Support Division and asked if they could continue taking it out of my pay and sending checks to my ex. They were more than glad to oblige!
As long as your children are living with your ex, you are obligated to pay child support until they turn 23 years old. It's not an option. It's not negotiable. It's the law.
You have two choices. You can whine about it and be bitter. Or you can remember that taking care of your children financially is part of your duty as a parent and you can take steps to make is as stress-free as possible for all involved.