If your marriage is headed to divorce court, you may have serious questions about child support. Child support used to be fairly cut-and-dried, but new trends have changed the picture. Following are three modern child support trends that you need to know about.
Stronger Government Enforcement Programs
Both the state and federal government have long been involved in the child support enforcement process, but changes in recent years are giving existing applicable laws more teeth. For instance, in some states, you may actually have a difficult time obtaining employment if you don't pay your child support. Part of the reason why it's become much more difficult in recent years to neglect child support obligations is due to the establishment of national databases that effectively track those who are in arrears. Those who have neglected their child support obligations may face the following:
- Denial or suspension of personal or commercial drivers licences
- Denial or suspension of a passport
- Denial or suspension of professional licences such as those held by attorneys, contractors, doctors, and accountants
- Interception of your state and federal tax refunds
- Wage garnishments
With the encouragement of the U.S. Congress, some states have also turned to public humiliation to shame parents into meeting their child support obligations. For instance, it is now common in many areas for "most wanted" lists to be posted featuring the photographs and full names of those who are shirking their support responsibilities toward their children. In the event that you end up on one of these lists, the only way you'll be able to remove yourself is to go to court and make arrangements to pay your child support.
When divorce rates skyrocketed during the early 1970s, the usual outcome involved children being shuffled back and forth between parents on a rather strict schedule. Custody almost always went to the mother unless she was somehow deemed an unfit parent by the court, and fathers usually had their children every Wednesday evening, every other weekend, and for six weeks during the summer vacation. This made for a lot of back-and-forth and wasn't necessarily conducive to fostering a solid sense of stability among growing children. As a result, some divorced parents are experimenting with an arrangement commonly known as "birdnesting."
Birdnesting is when children remain in the family home and the parents move in an out on a prearranged schedule. Naturally, this works best for parents who remain in the same communities after the dissolution of their marriage and who get along reasonably well. Even though they'll no longer be living together in the home, they'll nonetheless be sharing the space at different times. Problems arise when one parent, for instance, leaves the premises a mess when it's time for them to vacate for the other parent to have their turn. It also may cause resentment if one parent routinely leaves household maintenance and upkeep tasks to the other, such as mowing the lawn, pulling weeds, and fixing things around the house.
In birdnesting arrangements, both parents pay into a general pool to pay the household mortgage, utilities, and other associated costs in lieu of child support. For some, this can be more expensive than paying traditional child support, while it can work out well for others where hefty mortgages aren't a part of the picture.
Many modern courts are requiring divorcing parents to attend mandatory mediation sessions in the hopes of working out individualized custody and support solutions rather than simply slapping them with the type of one-size-fits-all court orders that were common in the past. Mediation works wonders if both parties are willing to work at it, but it often doesn't produce positive results when one or both parties are experiencing significant anger or grief concerning the upcoming dissolution of their marriage.
Please feel free to contact your local family attorney for more information on how you may be affected by child support matters after your divorce is final.