How Child Support and Custody Are Linked
No matter how much thought you put into your original parenting plan and custody arrangement, life happens, and circumstances change. Whether it is for scheduling reasons, shifts in relationships, or other life changes, it is common for parents to change their custody and parenting time schedules over time. Sometimes the parents make minor temporary adjustments by agreement. Other times, the circumstances warrant a permanent change that needs to be modified through the Court.
When it comes to family law, there are many interconnected pieces, and that includes custody and child support. Whether you’re a parent who pays child support or collects it, it’s important to understand how changes to custody and parenting time may or may not impact your child support obligation.
The Link Between Child Support and Custody
When two parents aren’t together, the Court aims to divide the financial responsibility for the children as evenly as possible. This is why custody and parenting time are taken into account while determining child support. If a child lives with parent A most of the time, parent A is putting in most of the work of raising the child and incurs the most day to day expenses in doing to. To even things out, the judge will require parent B to make a financial contribution to the primary parent for the child by paying child support.
We know that child support and custody are linked in the sense that the Courts consider custody and parenting time when determining the proper amount of child support necessary in each case. However, it is also important to know that the issues of custody and parenting time are not mutually exclusive with the issue of child support. If a parent is not paying child support in accordance with the Order, you still cannot withhold parenting time. The same is true in the converse; if a parent is refusing or interfering with your parenting time, you cannot withhold child support payments that are ordered by the Court. If that’s the case in your situation, you need to seek legal advice as to how to remedy that issue.
What Happens When Custody Arrangements Change
Because custody and child support are so connected, it makes sense that if your custody arrangement changes significantly, it is fair for your child support obligation to change as well. However, it’s important to understand that your child support obligation doesn’t change automatically. If you change your parenting plan so that your child spends more time living with you, you need to take an extra step to request a change in your child support obligation.
How to Modify Your Child Support Obligation
First and foremost, never take it upon yourself to pay child support in an amount (higher or lower) that is different than what was ordered by the Court, even if you and the other parent agree. It is important to know that regardless of any other circumstances, you are required to pay exactly what is detailed in the Court Order until a new Order is put in place to modify the amount. No matter what the situation may be, no amount of money is worth losing your driver’s license, going to jail, or enduring the other consequences of unpaid child support.
If your custody or parenting time arrangement has changed significantly, your first step is to meet with a family law attorney. We can review your case and determine if you have grounds to file for a child support modification. We will be able to help you prepare all the documentation you need and to file a motion with the court for your child support modification.
Keep in mind that it’s important to start this process promptly. As with most legal situations, a child support modification can take several months to complete. You’ll need to continue paying your current child support amount until a judge modifies your child support order, so you want to get the process moving as soon as possible.
Your Next Steps
There is no doubt that co-parenting a child with your ex can be a challenge. Custody arrangements and child support orders are set up to help parents maintain order and share responsibility for their children, and as family law attorneys, we’re here to advocate for you. If your custody arrangements have changed and you need to modify your child support appropriately, call Oxendine Law to schedule a meeting. For more information, check out our child support modification video as well.