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Dirty Tricks in Divorce Mediation - Child Support

I know it may seem counter-intuitive if you're a parent but sadly, more people than you'd think put their children in the middle of their divorce and use them as negotiating pawns. As with all facets of divorce mediation , the parties are expected to negotiate in good faith while working in a collaborative manner but that's not always the case especially when it comes to financial matters such as child support. Some of the tricks I've seen include:

  • Manipulating the alimony numbers to reduce child support - Depending on how long you have been married, your alimony may be of a limited duration. And since alimony is a factor in the calculation of child support in New Jersey you may get an artificially low child support number if your spousal support number is too high. Then when the alimony ends and the kids are still minors, you don't have enough to cover their expenses. To offset this, prepare an expense budget for both your expenses alone and the kids expenses alone. This way you can see what you and the children really need in order to live.

  • Agreeing to a higher than calculated "fixed amount" of child support - I've seen one parent pressure the other to take a "one size fits all" number that is actually higher than the calculated guideline with the understanding that the first parent would not come to them for any additional expenses. Because the child support guidelines don't include all those ancillary expenses that kids often incur, the number you agreed to because it was higher than what was calculated isn't nearly enough to cover things like gifts, field trips, tutoring, child care, etc. The best way to get around this? Do a budget.

  • Dumping expenses on the residential parent - Just because the children live with one parent a majority of the time, it doesn't always mean they should bear the brunt of all random expenses. When support is calculated, there is a certain amount of money earmarked for "discretionary" expenses but be careful as only 25% of the support award is officially designated to discretionary spending. Can you count on an ex-spouse to kick in for extras above 25%? Make sure you discuss this in mediation and be very clear about how discretionary spending will be decided upon, tracked and reimbursed as more often than not it doesn't cover those $250 concert tickets or the latest designer clothes. These children belong to both of you and so do their expenses.
One final note: your flexibility with regard to the parenting plan will go a long way in predicting how well you both work together when it comes to child support. No one like to be known as "the bank" without access and visitation with the children. Making sure your parenting plan is fair and balanced and that the children see both of you as much as possible is the best way to ensure there will be no issues with child support payments or random expenses.


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