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Why Your Post-Divorce Budget Shouldn’t Rely on Child Support

Updated: Jun 18, 2020

No amount of money can replace time with your children, so though we all know how expensive children can be, most mothers fight hard to gain custody of their children during the divorce. If you are considering divorce or have already started down that road, you may assume that once you gain custody of the children, your spouse will have to pay child support and everything will be hunky dory.

After all, it is illegal for a father (or mother) to skip child support payments that have been ordered by the court, and failure to pay can lead to property liens, professional license suspension, and even jail time in extreme cases. Even with these protections in place, however, your child support payments aren’t guaranteed. At the end of the day, that money depends on the actions of your ex-spouse – and there are myriad reasons why he may stop paying or become unable to pay.

As you begin to map out your post-divorce life, especially your post-divorce financial life, it is important that your financial solvency doesn’t rely on receiving child support payments each month. If those payments are the only thing that allows you to cover your mortgage, for example, then even a short disruption could send you into debt freefall.

The Truth About Child Support Payments in America

In a perfect world, every parent would happily make their child support payments on time and in full each month. Reality is a very different thing. In January of 2016, the U.S. Census Bureau released its latest version of the report “Custodial Mothers and Fathers and Their Child Support.” According to the report, among the 6.5 million custodial parents in the U.S. who were owed child support just 45.6% received all of the money they were due.

Roughly 28.5% of parents received some of the money they were owed, and over a quarter of parents (25.9%) received none of the required child support from their child’s father! If you are relying on child support payments to survive, you may be sorely disappointed.

Why Some Men Don’t Pay Child Support

Many fathers do pay child support faithfully each month and care deeply about the well-being of their children. But some fathers simply choose not to pay, possibly as a way to punish their exes out of anger. Other fathers may want to meet their financial obligation to their children but are unable.

Your ex may not be able to pay if he:

  • Loses his job

  • Faces a costly medical emergency

  • Gets sued or faces bankruptcy

  • Gets incarcerated

  • Retires

  • Becomes disabled

  • Faces business failure

  • Starts a new family and puts his money toward them

If your ex faces a financial crisis (such as losing his job), he can appeal to the courts to modify his child support order to lower his payments.

It Could Happen at Any Time

What’s important to realize is that child support payments rely entirely on your ex-spouse. You cannot control whether he loses his job, gets injured, or simply decides to stop writing your child support check. Even after years of consistent payments, that check could stop coming for any number of reasons.

That is why it is critical that you put yourself into a strong enough financial position so that you can still survive even if the payments stop coming. If that means making big changes, such as deciding not to keep your house after divorce or going back to work, you must be willing to make these hard decisions. Do not rely on your ex-husband exclusively to keep you and your children financially afloat, or you could find yourself floundering!

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