Child Support & An Accounting – Challenge #5

I have handled lots and lots of divorce cases, paternity cases, and child custody cases in the past. I found that in most, not all, but a vast majority of these cases the resolution hinged on the amount of child support; and, the fight over visits often found its way tied back to the almighty dollar.

DISCLAIMER: THIS IS NOT LEGAL ADVICE. THIS IS FOR ILLUSTRATION PURPOSES ONLY.

In Oklahoma, the amount one will pay in child support each month is based upon a mathematical formula centered around the gross incomes of the parties (mom and dad). Once you determine the gross income amounts of the parties the statue tells you how much is required to support the number of children in question (your legislative dollars at work). That figure for support is then divided between the parties on a pro-rata share based upon their percentages of the contributing gross income. For example: Dad earns 60% of the gross income = Dad pays 60% of the monthly support obligation, whereas mom pays 40% since she earns 40% of the gross income. (This is an over simplified example).

In Oklahoma, there is also a magical number in child support cases…120 overnights. If you exercise visitation with your child for 120 overnights or more per year you (the non-residential parent) get a significant reduction toward the child support obligation.

The Department of Agriculture says the estimated cost of raising a child from birth through age 17 is $233,610, or as much as almost $14,000 annually. That’s the average for a middle-income couple with two children. Let that sink in for a minute.

I ended up rewriting this post several times. It is a topic that frustrates many people and I’m certain many family law attorneys as well. Now, for the raw truth…

The issue with child support centers around control (Yes it does!). It really is that simple. The payor earned the resources and wants to control how those resources are spent. Hey, I get it. I’m a possessive person. I’m also a giving and sharing person, but I generally only like to that on my terms. I’m a “that’s mine and that’s mine… Don’t touch my stuff” kind of person. Trust me, I get it. Handing over $800 a month would probably make me a little crazy as well. But, I would be dead wrong and remiss if I didn’t do it happily.

There are children, little human beings, at the center of these arguments. They deserve to live in a nice home. They deserve to have nice clothing. They deserve to have a refrigerator and pantry filled with food. They deserve to have their sports fees paid on time. They deserve to never have to worry about whether or not the electric or water will work when they need to use either of those things.

Sadly, the battle in custody cases often centers around finances. Attorneys get a lot of smoke screens and excuses but the almighty dollar has created some seriously bitter fights. There is this ludicrous assumption that “my money” is paying for the ex’s running around, clothes, new car, whatever.  This leads to resentment and extreme bitterness which places children smack dab in the middle of the parents fighting.

The truth is the money being paid goes to offset living and care expenses and not directly for the expenses being complained of. Yes, the other party might have bought a new car and maybe wouldn’t have had the opportunity to do so without the support, but who doesn’t want their kids transported in a safe vehicle? Yes, the ex might have bought some new clothes or even taken a vacation, and maybe they were finally able to do that since they now have help with the house payment (in the house where your kids live), paying the electric, gas, and water (that your kids utilize), or paying for the kids’ clothes and lunches. The money you pay offsets living expenses, which in turn then may allow the ex an opportunity to utilize some of their resources to treat themselves and ultimately your child benefits from that (Less stress = happier, more stable home). You didn’t buy your ex a new car. You assisted in paying (offsetting) expenses for your children. Your ex bought a new car.

But, Carol, you don’t understand. My kids come over to see me wearing rag-tag clothing while she runs around. Do you send the clothing back? I know a lot of parents, no matter how often attorneys discourage it, who keep “the nice things” at their home.  STOP DOING THIS TO YOUR CHILDREN!!!!! The children’s’ items belong to the children.  Good grief the stress these children endure. They didn’t ask for this situation. You created it for them.

Wouldn’t it be cool if when your child tells you about a trip they took with the other parent you could earnestly say; “Wow, that’s really great. I’m so glad you had the opportunity to experience that.” Instead of; “Yeah, well I wish I could do that but I have to pay your mom/dad every month. Must be nice! *Grumble Grumble Bitter Grumble.* Those words crush the child’s spirit and feels them with guilt. CUT IT OUT!

I use to think that maybe there should be some type of accounting, maybe that would end the arguments in these cases and stop splintering so many households. What if there was an agency who would help trace and track the expenditures, wouldn’t that be nice? But, in reality, it won’t help. Besides, I really don’t think children owe you an accounting. An accounting will only give you something else to complain about. Maybe they went to McDonald’s too many times that month when they could’ve eaten at home. Maybe the kid got a new baseball and glove and you thought the last one was just fine.  No, an accounting won’t help. This will never eliminate the need for control. And, ultimately, that is the crux of the issue. If you really feel your child is being mistreated, truly mistreated, then you have an obligation to protect your child and file for custody. But, if you are just mad and frustrated because your parenting style is different from the other parent and you’ve lost control… well… you should have stayed married! THE BITTER END.

 

 

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