If you’re a parent who is heading toward a divorce, child support may be your biggest worry — whether you expect to pay it or receive it.
Here’s the most important piece of advice you need to hear about child support before you start making any plans: Your situation is unique. You cannot base your expectations on anyone else’s divorce and child support obligation. The smart thing to do is to talk to a family law attorney about your situation before you develop any expectations for the future.
That being said, there are at least four things every divorcing parent should know about child support:
1. Child support doesn’t affect your taxes
Under the current laws, your child support payments do not reduce your tax liability if you are a payer. They also do not increase your tax liability if you receive support.
2. The dependent child exemption does affect taxes
In the past, it was usually easier to figure out who got the right to claim a child as a dependent on their taxes. That privilege went to the parent who had physical custody of the child the most throughout the year. These days, however, physical custody is often fairly evenly divided. Some parents choose to negotiate for the deduction, while others agree to alternate it.
3. Child support is more important than spousal support
You may be entitled to (or have to pay) child support even when no spousal support is required. A parent’s obligation to provide for a child is entirely independent of any other issue arising out of the marriage.
4. There is no such thing as a permanent order of support
No matter how the order is phrased, the reality is that child support orders can always be modified based on need. In the future, for example, the support you pay could be decreased based on the fact that you lost your job or retired. Similarly, the support you pay could be increased based on the fact that your child has special needs and requires some expensive therapy.
Don’t be misled by half-truths and guesses. Talk to a family law attorney today about your situation for tailored advice.