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JLeslie's avatar

What is your opinion regarding child support?

Asked by JLeslie (61790points) March 6th, 2012

For this question I am asking about child support for divorced people, not single parents with children born outside of wedlock.

The way I understand it child support is simply a mathematical equation. If the divorced parents have 50/50 custody of the children, but one parent makes more money, that parent has to pay the other child support. If one parent makes much more money, then the percentage probably is not just for the child’s needs, but also helps the other parent with expenses for themselves. I guess part of the reasoning is the child should not have very different living circumstances from one house to the other?

But, if you are the one making double your ex-spouse, do you think you would resent handing him/her over a percentage of your pay, rather than a number that is calculated to figure the needs of the child?

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34 Answers

Adirondackwannabe's avatar

Is it fair to make one spouse pay for the ex’s expenses over and above the child support?

Pandora's avatar

I say both should pay till it hurts. They both made the kid, so they both should make sure the child is well provided for. Neither parent should see paying for the child as the other persons sole responsibility, no matter who has the most custody. Your kid needs medical care than the parent with the best insurance should take care of that. Other than that it should all go according to who is making the most cash. If the kid was still living at home with both mom and dad, than none would quibble about who’s paying what for the kid. The person with the most income would’ve paid the largest amount. It shouldn’t change and the kid shouldn’t be made to feel like he has to beg for his care from either.

Blackberry's avatar

It really depends on how amicable the divorce was. If the couple hates each other, of course they’re going to be angry if they don’t get enough or have to give too much.

Maybe it’s an elephant in the room, I don’t know: but I think it’s obvious if you make a decent amount of money, whoever gets the child support and/or alimony knows that person is going to use it for things they don’t need. I don’t think anyone thinks their money is all going to the child and for its needs solely. It’s when you think of your ex-spouse using your court appointed money to buy shoes that pisses you off (because you know how they are already because you were married to them). And once you make a certain amount of money, there’s a point where the kid doesn’t need all of it and you know where the rest is going.

But, I also have no idea what it’s like to have that kind of money. I imagine it’s more important when the couple doesn’t make a lot of money because that is when every dollar counts, and you see your check disappearing every week to go to either: the person you hate, or the person you hate, but understand it’s for the consequences of your actions and you need to fulfill your duty because you love your kid, or, you’re a deadbeat loser.

I gave my ex-wife a lot of money from separation until divorce because she was moving back to her hometown and of course needed to start over again, finding a place and a job. I actually didn’t even need to give her as much as I did, and everyone told me not to (because they knew how much of a bastard she was), but I just felt it was the right thing to do because she had a kid. So it hurt for awhile, but my hate for her was counter balanced by her sweet kid. The moral of that story is: don’t get married or have kids.

JLeslie's avatar

@Pandora Paying the largest amount is not the same as paying more than what the child needs.

@Blackberry I think maybe it is more annoying when the couple makes plenty of money. When the check is really big and probably going for manicures and golf games. You kind of gave your ex start over alimony, which I think was admirable.

keobooks's avatar

@Adirondackwannabe I think that lots of people don’t realize that there are many expenses in raising a child that are not directly related to feeding and clothing a child. For instance, paying to a mortgage or rent of the parent with custody may seem like just giving mom a free ride, but the child lives there too. Paying for mom’s gas get her to work so she can earn money for the child. Paying her bills helps keep the kid in a heated house with electricity.

Now you could nit-pick and argue that mom used the money to buy herself cruises or dinners with a new boyfriend. Unfortunately, unless the mom is grossly neglecting the kid, that’s hard to prove because nobody is allowed to have full control over her bank account.


I think one thing overlooked is that fathers should be allowed to keep enough money to live on. I know of fathers who have kids from multiple women who can’t afford their own basic expenses because they are paying off multiple mothers for child support.

You could argue that he shouldn’t have had so many sex partners, but that bell has already been rung. Having him pay less so he can afford his own expenses gives better odds that he pays at all. Also if he can afford his own housing, he’s less likely to shack up and mooch off a new girlfriend, making yet another baby.

janbb's avatar

As I understand it, there is a difference between child support and spousal support and the laws are pretty strict as to how amounts are determined.

Blackberry's avatar

@keobooks “he shouldn’t have had so many sex partners much unprotected sex” Fixed that for you. :)

JLeslie's avatar

@keobooks Not just fathers. My girlfriend pays the child support. Part of the reason she left her husband is he never secured a full time job, because he never cared to even though in the beginning of their marriage he made it seem like he wanted to work. They were going to do the Mr. Mom thing, but she wound up doing everything, work, house, kid. Now she pays him child support.

SuperMouse's avatar

I receive child support for my three children. I use the child support to feed, clothe, and house my children. I receive an amount based on my ex-husband’s income – which is close to ten times my income. The reality of my life is that 100% of what he pays goes to taking care of the children we created together. I stayed at home with my kids from the time they were born, he worked during that entire time. When the youngest went to school I returned to school part time. I am taking more classes now, although my schedule is built around my children’s schedules, until I do finish, like it or not I rely on the child support to keep my children from living in squalor.

While I believe my ex-husband would disagree, I think the arrangement is fair. If he did have the children full-time and was not paying child support, I guarantee he would be paying at least as much to feed, clothe, and house the children. That isn’t even considering what he would be paying for child care while he works 40 hours a week, especially during school breaks and all summer long. I am also fairly certain that a smaller portion of his income goes to taking care of the kids now that we are divorced than did when we were married. Now that it comes out in a chunk and is sent to me – someone he currently loathes – it is just more painful and obvious to him.

I have no doubt that my ex believes that I am living high on the hog on his dime, that is just not reality. I have not bought anything for myself in a couple of years and a close look at our finances reveals that we do not spend lavishly on anyone; the bulk of what we pull in, from child support, to my husband’s income, to what I bring in from working, goes to household/family expenses.

Blackberry's avatar

@JLeslie So, I guess like every government system, this one also needs to be fixed.

SavoirFaire's avatar

We need to be careful to separate child support from alimony. Child support is entirely determined by the needs of the child, though such needs include things like standard of living concerns. That means that one parent may be required to help the other with expenses that go to things like housing, but it’s the child’s house, too. It does not count as a personal expense in the relevant sense.

If one spouse really makes a great deal more than the other at the time of divorce, however, there may also be an alimony payment (depending on various factors). This is considered a different pot of money, and it can be used for any kind of expense whatsoever. Even reimbursement alimony, which is money paid in return for expenses incurred during the marriage, can be used for anything going forward.

JLeslie's avatar

@Blackberry Well, I don’t know if I agree with that. I think it would be pretty hard for the courts to determine the right amount to award, so the mathematical equations probably make some sense as a simple format.

Blackberry's avatar

@JLeslie Yeah, I just meant that it sucks when your friend had to do everything and still pay the guy.

SuperMouse's avatar

@keobooks and @JLeslie, a little over a year ago I was forced to take my ex to court for a financial situation where his behavior cost me my car, my house, and my credit. I won a judgement from him (separate from the child support order). When the judge figured the settlement he had in front of him a detailed breakdown of the ex’s income, expenses, savings, etc. and used that to determine the amount of the judgement along with how it was to be paid. He was very generous in considering the ex’s living expenses when figuring his award. I actually got significantly less than what the fiasco cost me. My point is that in my experience, the judge looked at the whole of a person’s financial picture before making any awards. I know this to be the case with child support, at least where I live because I know someone who has kids with a man who has kids with several woman. When she took him to court to get support for her children the award was ridiculously low (less then $50/month) because he was paying so many women.

I really think the cases where a woman is using child support to bankroll weekly mani/pedi’s and to keep up payment on her Mercedes are the exception rather than the rule. Most single parents I have known have barely gotten by on their child support and needed to have a full-time job in addition just to make ends meet.

JLeslie's avatar

@SuperMouse Don’t get me wrong, I am not saying everyone who receives child support has some sort of unfair free ride, I don’t think that at all. I just can also understand why some who pay, feel their amount is unfair, or why they might resent the check they write each month. Each situation is different I am sure. I 100% feel both parents are responsible for the children, and agree that where and how the parent making less money lives matters, so if some of the money goes to living expenses it is not necessarily something I find to be unfair. It depends on the situation.

I had a girlfriend who had custody of her kids, and he had visiting, he paid quite a bit in child support. When her drinking got really out of control she lost her rights to be alone with the children, he got full custody. Eventually she dried out and was given visitation. He actually let the children go back to living with their mom, he didn’t want to watch them every day, but now he doesn’t have to pay her child support. He does help pay for the children, he isn’t a total deadbeat or anything, and the kids spend time with him, but he pays much less than what had been court ordered. My girlfriend now makes a good salary, still about half what he makes.

janbb's avatar

@JLeslie All of a sudden people who had joint concerns and interests, have different ones if not completely adversarial. Of course it’s going to get messy. There are no ideal solutions. We muddle through with the help of the law.

My kids are grown-ups and there is still a lot of pain in becoming two separate parents instead of a team even though they don’t need financial support from us.

JLeslie's avatar

@janbb I see it that way too. It’s messy. I am not idealistic about some sort of easy solution.

Coloma's avatar

When my ex and I divorced he paid me child support as he made quadruple what I made. At 16ish my daughter wanted to live with her dad and then I paid for 2 years until she was 18. Fair is fair.
It made me feel great to pay, not only for her, but because my ex was hoping I’d fall on my face without his income and I did not. Heh!

Coloma's avatar

I’d also say that I think the idea of a parent using monies designated for child support on personal items is mostly a myth. “Child support” means that if that money is needed to contribute to the overall needs of the household that supports the child, that is the definition of “support.”
Supporting the food, electricity, and a roof over everyones head along with necessities such as clothing, shoes and school expenses.
My ex would split hairs in this sense, he’d claim he bought our daughter some specialty item like a new backpack, well good for you! I’m keeping the house afloat so I consider it equal. Divorce brings out the worst in some people and it’s sad how childish the suppossed “adults” can become. Bah!

JLeslie's avatar

@SuperMouse Just curious, does your ex want you to get a full time job so you bear more of the financial burden concerning your children? Is he ok with them not having you home all the time? Or, did he also want to home with the kids? I think for some exspouses they feel at the mercy of the courts and their exspouse just not getting a job. There is a reward for not working, more child support. Of course at some incomes it is not enough to live on, but in some brackets it is. That to me is partly alimony.

bkcunningham's avatar

I knew a woman whose husband was a Virginia State Trooper. After a messy divorce, which involved one small son, he petitioned the court to make her be accountable for every penny of his financial obligation, aka. child support. His payments were deposited in a special bank account that could only be spent with checks. She had to send him the bank statements each month.

Coloma's avatar

@bkcunningham Oh lord, whatta control freak, figures an authority figure would go for ultimate authority in some cases. Bah!

bkcunningham's avatar

I hadn’t thought about it that way, @Coloma. I think that sounds about right. lol I was always so enamored with him and his police buddies, I overlooked obvioius things like that. I couldn’t stop looking at those beautiful, black shiney shoes and pleats. OMG, I love those crisp, tight pleats…don’t get me started on the leather. lol Sorry, @JLeslie for derailing.

YARNLADY's avatar

I believe the parents should pay according to their income, with the larger income paying more.
Child support goes way beyond what their food, clothing and doctor bills.

SuperMouse's avatar

@JLeslie while we were married my ex and I made a deal that whoever earned enough money to have the other one stay home would keep their job. It turned out to be him so he kept working. Back then he resented that I didn’t work full time. I have no idea whether he wants me to get a full time job now or not and I honestly could not care less.

I am home with the kids pretty much all the time when they are home. I set up my work and school schedules so that I am gone when they are in school or with their father. During the few hours that I am not with them my husband is with them.

It is my understanding though that child support isn’t based on my income, but on his. Our decree outlined child support amounts until our last child hit the age of majority and whether I worked was not part of the calculation. The reason I have not gotten a full time job is that I think it is most important to be with the kids if I possibly can. We live as frugally as we can while I finish school and can work as a teacher with a schedule that aligns with theirs.

bkcunningham's avatar

That is a great attitude, @SuperMouse. Keep it up. I think it is important that children spend as much time as possible with their parents. If one is able to spend more time with the children, the other parent shouldn’t begrudge that.

JLeslie's avatar

@SuperMouse I know very little about how child support is calculated from state to state. I know in MI, regarding my one girlfriend, his income and her income are taken into account. They have 50/50 custody and time with their son. She pays him, because she makes more, but it is based on how much more I think. If they both made the same money, neither would be paying either. If he only saw the child on weekends, she would pay less. She really really would prefer to have full custody, but not so much about the money, although she does resent it, but also because she thinks it would be better, more stable for her son. But, that is a whole other story. My point is, if you worked, I am pretty sure he could go back to court and get his child support obligation lowered.

So you both made a deal when you were married one of you would stay home with the kids, but he also resented you didn’t work full time? How does that make sense to him? Or, maybe I misunderstood?

bkcunningham's avatar

Maybe he resented it after the fact because he thought he’d be the one making less money, @JLeslie.

JLeslie's avatar

@bkcunningham Maybe? I think we all talk in ideals when we discuss things though, and then when reality sets in we sometimes change our minds. My husband makes plenty for us to live on, and I have not worked in a couple years, and he would prefer I work, I feel bad about it at times. He says he feels the burden of all the support for us on him. I completely understand why that is stressful for him. He would not work a different job if I worked though. Well, he might venture onto something more entrepreneurial or risky if I made as much as he does, but I have never earned that sort of income even when I do work. He also likes all the things I do for the household, and our lives in general. I plan all his racing trips, our vacations, run the errands, do the chores, etc., but he still would prefer I bring in some income.

augustlan's avatar

I’d been a stay-at-home mom for years when my ex and I divorced, and only started working when we knew we were going to split. We decided that our kids would be better off living with him, party because he was better able to afford three children as a single parent than I would be (he has primary physical custody, we have joint legal custody). At that time, he made about 70 grand a year more than I did.

I pay him child support, even though he still makes considerably more money than I do… just because I thought it was the right thing to do. My divorce lawyer thought I was crazy, because if I had asked for alimony, my ex would have owed me more in alimony per month than I’d have owed him in child support (as long as I didn’t get remarried). I didn’t want alimony, though, and I think it’s my responsibility to contribute financially to the welfare of my children. My ex and I basically figured out how much I’d need to live on, and manipulated the numbers so that the court would order me to pay what I could afford (both our salaries were taken into consideration). We’ve had a very amicable and flexible arrangement, and I think it’s largely because we had a ‘good’ divorce, and are most often able to put aside our differences in order to do what’s best for the kids.

SuperMouse's avatar

@JLeslie, @bkcunningham hit pretty close to the reason he resented me. Early in our marriage I made more money than he did for a long time. It turned out that the bank where I was working was closed down and I was laid off shortly before we decided to start a family. I think he really thought he was going to be the one to stay home. He also really had/has no concept whatsoever of what it takes to stay home and raise kids (I had two within 16 months) so he really believed I had it easy. He still feels that way but he has also never been engaged as a father in any way shape or form so he has absolutely no idea what it is to be an actual parent.

JLeslie's avatar

@augustlan If your husband stopped working do you think you would resent paying for everything? Paying for him and the children? Assuming he still had custody most or all of the time? Would it depend on how much you were making whether you were ok with it or not?

Since I don’t have children I can only assume how I might feel. Even then, I think it is difficult to really know without being in the situation.

Obviously you must trust your ex as a father, and as a man, who would not take advantage of the money given to him. I assume the money did not change how much he worked or earned. I realize advantage sounds bad, but I don’t know what other word to use.

augustlan's avatar

@JLeslie If he quit working now, (which would never happen), it would be a huge problem, given our current financial situations. There just isn’t any way I could support him and their house, on top of supporting the children. I don’t make nearly enough money for that! However, if I were so well off that it was a possibility, and he didn’t work in order to be home full-time with the kids, I’d have been fine with that. After all, his salary supported me for all those years that I was the stay-at-home parent. We always said that if I could make the kind of money he makes, he’d have been the stay-at-home parent in the first place.

In fact, even though I went to work when we separated, I had to have major surgery and lost that job. During the time I was off, we all (me, my ex, and my now-husband) decided that I should not get another job, and instead, take care of the kids after school every day. It was good for the kids to have me back as a stay-at-‘home’ mom, and since their dad didn’t have to pay for childcare, I didn’t pay him child support during that time. My now-husband supported me financially, happily, because he thought it was best for the kids, too. We did that for about 4 years. Once all the girls were out of elementary school, I went back to work and started paying it again.

TL;DR: In short, one of us being home with the kids was always more important to us than the money factor.

JLeslie's avatar

@augustlan I think it’s great how everyone, you, your husband, and ex, all work together to find the best solution.

In your situation your ex was not paying for you to watch the children after school from how I understand it. It was more like you watched the kids after school, which saved from paying someone else to watch them. Plus, your ex was not giving you money to live from what I can tell? Meaning he was not footing other expenses for you.

Don’t get me wrong, my husband and I always thought if we had children I would stay home, or work part time in a way that I still had a lot of time with them. I think kids want a parent around. I think it helps them feel secure, and has all sorts of positive benefits. I’m not sure if how I am wording the questions sounds like I think all people who don’t work when there is a divorce are leeches. I don’t think that, especially when children are involved, and I also think how the marriage was set up and for how long matters. If the wife never worked, or has not worked in years, all these things matter. I believe in alimony. But, I do think there are women and men who take advantage of divorce law, and child support, and if the tables were turned they would never want to fork over the money they require from their ex spouses. Your situation is not like that at all obviously.

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