One of the most stressful parts of a divorce is developing a friendly co-parenting plan and child custody schedule. This must be done to ensure minimal disruption to the child’s routine after the divorce. When you add child support issues into the mix, everything becomes quite complicated.
In most cases, the details of child support are settled in a court hearing. During the child support hearing, a judge will determine how much it will be and other fine details surrounding your divorce case.
Therefore, it means that a child support hearing isn’t something you can take lightly. A slight mistake can financially cripple either the payee or payer. It is imperative you take time to prepare thoroughly for the hearing and present your best possible argument.
Here are a few tips to help you prepare for your child support hearing.
1. Review Your Finances Carefully
The presiding judge will need to know both parents’ income before calculating how much child support should be paid to the custodial parent. Work closely with your divorce attorney to gather all of your crucial financial information you will submit to the family court.
Once you have gathered the information, review it thoroughly. Keep in mind that the presiding judge or the opposing attorney may ask you several questions related to your personal finances. It is critical to know how to answer the questions appropriately to appear honest before the court.
You should also be prepared to review the financial information that your ex-partner submits before the court. Many parents in the middle of child custody and child support tussles tend to hide some of their income so that they are not ordered to pay a lot of money.
If you believe your ex-spouse is trying to hide some information about his/her income, inform your divorce attorney right away.
2. Don’t be Afraid to Disclose Your Full Income
First impressions matter and the same thing applies even to judges. Family courts use a special formula to establish which spouse will pay child support and the baseline figure. A significant part of the formula is both parents’ income, but it is beyond your conventional W-2 form.
Typically, when you go to court on the hearing date, you should have copies of your last two years of tax returns, paystubs for the previous two months, any documents showing income from any other sources such as cash payments or bank interest income. You should also have documentation showing any deductions from your income, such as mortgage interest and property tax deductions.
Furthermore, you should carry documentation showing how much money you are already paying in childcare if any, so that it can be considered during child support calculation.
In a way, the financial aspect of your child support hearing is much more similar to a tax audit. Being transparent can save you a big deal.
3. Understand the Implications of Your Time Split
Two major factors influence the child support calculation formula: The parents’ income and the time kids spend with each parent.
The time split factor is perhaps the biggest single factor in the calculations, and it is one reason why some spouses fight so viciously about child visitation. Typically, the judge will enter the visitation percentage into the child support calculator to determine the base figure.
The higher the visitation percentage is for the paying spouse, the lower the amount he/she will be expected to pay. Therefore, given the impact of the parenting time on child support, you need to make sure you know your exact percentage.
Avoid estimating the percentage because it could affect the amount you pay or receive by thousands of dollars every year. Fortunately, many online apps can help you determine your exact parenting time.
4. Don’t Overstate Your Expenses
After thoroughly reviewing your documentation and statements, the family court may dispute your monthly expenses, especially if the judge feels like you are putting your own needs before your child’s needs.
If the court suspects that you are manipulating the system to avoid paying child support, the judge may be forced to impute your income, ordering you to pay what the court believes you should be earning based on your current job, educational qualifications, and experience.
Therefore, it is always good to account for your spending and prepare sufficient evidence to back up everything you claim.
5. Learn About Proper Family Court Etiquette
The courtroom can be quite a different environment if you are not used to it. Sometimes, it can be emotionally overwhelming and challenging. If your ex-partner and his/her partner are saying a lot of negative things about you, your emotions may get the best of you.
However, misbehaving or responding to them inappropriately in a family court can be quite detrimental, which can have severe consequences on the outcome of the case.
Your divorce lawyer can teach you proper courtroom etiquette and what to expect during the hearing, as well as help you avoid unnecessary emotional outbursts.
6. Don’t Overreact
Sometimes, you may feel like your child support hearing is unfair. No matter what you think or feel, don’t lush out at your ex-partner or judge in court. You must comply with the court-ordered agreement but keep in mind that the terms are not set in stone.
Both the non-custodial and custodial parents have the right to seek a legal modification to the child support agreement to increase or decrease the amount. Since you have this option, there is no reason to overreact if you are not pleased with the outcome of your hearing.
The best thing to do is to stay calm and talk to your attorney about it. Let your lawyer know why you think the outcome was unfair, and he/she will determine how soon you can request a modification to the agreement.
Let Our Child Support Attorney Help You
Are you preparing for a child support hearing or a potential modification to your child support agreement? We know that the process can be quite intimidating, and you need someone to hold your hand and guide you.
Our team of experienced child support attorneys is ready to help you and protect your rights throughout the process. We shall help you obtain everything you need for the hearing and represent you in court. Contact us today for a free review of your case.