The Connection Between Child Support and Parenting Plans
Child support is set by the court based on the income of the parents. Child support can be increased or decreased based on special circumstances, such as needs of the children. There are cases in most states that allow for a reduction in child support based on a percentage of overnight visits. Alternatively, the parents can agree on a child support amount and as long as it meets the needs of the children the court will accept it, even outside of the court-established guidelines.
Child support is usually set at the same time as the custody and visitation giving the illusion they are all tied together or dependent on each other. Child support is only dependent on custody. The custodial parent receives it and the non-custodial parent pays it. After that is established, child support no longer has any bearing on parenting/custody. Medical, dental, education and other expenses that are apportioned outside of child support are also not effected by a shared parenting/custody agreement.
Child support and visitation are not dependent on each other. In other words, what happens with visitation doesn’t affect child support. That being said, there is one exception in most states, and that is overnight visits. If overnight visits exceed a certain number of days per month then child support is adjusted. There are some misconceptions about child support and visitation and they can lead to some major headaches. Here are some of the more common misconceptions and the reality about them.
The most common misconception is that the custodial parent may deny visitation because the other parent is late or not paying the child support. It may seem like a quick fix but visitation should never be used as a tool or weapon. The children are not the ones that are not paying so they should not be punished for the wrong-doing of the other parent. It won’t seem fair that the other parent gets to have all the fun while skirting their financial responsibility but it is an issue to address with the courts. It can be difficult at times to keep the child support and visitation separate but they are, and using visitation to punish the other parent can end with a loss of custody.
Another misconception is that parents aren’t allowed to decide on child support, and once set it can’t be changed without going to court again. That is false. If the parents agree to an amount the court will accept the agreement as long as it is reasonable. Child support can also be modified through mutual agreement of the parents. Most states simply require notification of the new agreement. This is as simple as writing up an agreement that both parents sign and notarize, then file with the clerk of the court.
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