It doesn’t happen often, but occasionally a woman tells me that she doesn’t ‘need’ child support.
It’s an interesting comment, and one that I feel kind of confused by. What do you mean – you don’t need it?
Child support, after all, is not designed for the comfort of the parent receiving it; it’s designed to help support the minor children of the parties. Child support, unlike spousal support, doesn’t really come with a whole lot of strings attached; you simply use the money for the children’s benefit. In one case, that can look like money towards rent, mortgage, groceries, or wifi. In another case, it can help cover shoes, extracurriculars, camps, sports, equipment and other necessary items.
Medical expenses are handled separately, with each parent paying their pro rata share of unreimbursed expenses incurred – so, braces, emergency room visits, scans, screenings, surgeries and other medical procedures are not covered by child support, they’re considered over and beyond the child support obligation.
But it is a child support obligation, meaning that both parents share responsibility for providing for the children they bring into the world. In Virginia, children age out of child support when they turn 19 or graduate high school, whichever occurs first.
It’s not really optional. Basically, the way it works is that the statute dictates a number of support necessary for a child (or children) based on how much the parents earn each month, combined. You look down the chart at the combined figure, across the chart to the number of children, and you’ve got the guideline support figure. Then, under a primary physical custody arrangement, the parties share that number proportionally based on their respective incomes – so, if you earn 20% of the income, you pay 20% of that number.
If you’re the custodial parent, you don’t pay yourself that 20%; it’s expected that, in the course of caring for your child(ren), you’ll spend at least that figure. There’s no actual accounting that takes place, but the non custodial parent will then pay you the remainder, in this example, 80% of that guideline figure.
Under a shared physical custodial scenario, you share the number proportionally based on your income, but you also further share it based on the number of days that you have with the child over the course of a year. In a shared physical custody arrangement, when the non custodial parent has 90 days (the bare minimum to qualify under a shared custody guideline), he will pay more in support than if he has 50/50 custody with 182.5 days.
It’s not for YOU, it’s for the children. If you’re saying you don’t need it, though, I have to wonder how that can be true.
You mean, your basic needs are met? You have a roof over your head and food in your bellies and shoes on your feet? I think that’s what you mean.
But there’s more to having children than having your basic needs met, if you’re lucky. Though some families scrimp and save to meet basic needs, for other families money flows a bit more freely. I’d argue that, even if those basic needs are already met, your children still ‘need’ the benefit of the support that both parents can provide.
Do you have enough extra for sports, camps, musical instruments, specialty equipment, travel, and more? Once basic needs are met, you can use the extra support money to help foster your child’s unique interests and talents.
You’ve got all that covered, too? Great. Do you have a 529 account, or other college savings account? An IRA, perhaps?
There are a lot of investments you can make while your children are young which can pay off in spades later, helping to offset the costs of college, weddings, or even down payments on their first homes, if you’re lucky.
Do you NEED it? No. It’s a luxury for sure, and one that not all families are lucky enough to afford. But my opinion is that, if you don’t ‘need’ his money to live a basically good life, then you should take that money and put it in another place that will enhance your child’s life. You are in a very fortunate position, it’s true – but your child(ren) deserve the benefit of what both you and their father can provide.
Keep in mind, too, that child support – or receipt of it – has nothing to do with whether your coparent has visitation rights. Even dads who don’t pay support may have time with their children, so not accepting his money doesn’t necessarily mean that you’ll be the unchallenged only parent of your children – so keep that in mind as well. If he asks the court, the court will likely let him see the kids, regardless of whether he’s paying child support. So, don’t hold back from asking for all that your children might be entitled to receive because you think it gives you more control – legally, it doesn’t.
You are in a truly privileged position if you find that you have enough to meet your needs and don’t need any more. There are very, very few moms who can say that. I would still encourage you, though, to take the child support that your child is legally entitled to receive. Use it to enrich their life in a way that is beyond what you can afford to do on your own. Your child deserves it!
For more information about child support, or to request a copy of our custody book for moms, give our office a call at 757-425-5200.