If you’re getting divorced and have children, then most likely child support will become part of your vocabulary and you will inevitably have some child support related disagreements and modifications.
Kyle Bradford has been divorced now for nine years and during that time his child support agreement has changed twice. The first time the changes were handled using attorneys. The second time, Kyle handled the change himself. Here’s Kyle:
The first time we changed our child support, I had to change it. I had a job change, a career change and an income change, so I had to take her back to court for that and the result is that I went in and adjusted the visitation or the parenting time as well.
I hired an attorney, the whole nine yards. It was painful, very painful. I had known six months earlier that my financial and job situation was going to change. I told her that well in advance. I was very transparent with her about that six months in advance.
So, when that day came, I told her, “This is what’s going to happen.” I went ahead and gave her a number based on Georgia law, which I knew what the law was and how they calculated it and so forth and her response to me was different than what it was six months earlier. In essence, she said, “Any changes, we’re going to have to go through the court system.” She was not going to work with me when it came to that.
A small antidote I’ll share with you is quite hilarious. From the time that I had to hire an attorney to the time that everything was finalized, it was about a five month process. The final number that was landed on through the mediator was $50 less than what I offered her five months earlier.
I spent thousands of dollars in legal fees to ultimately get to what I offered her. I could have saved us both money.
Here’s the deal and I just need to be candid. There are a lot of assumptions when people contemplate divorce of any kind. I’ve seen this time and time again. It usually happens, unfortunately, with women. I’m just going to call it like it is, because that’s been the experience that I’ve witnessed.
A woman wants to file for divorce, she talks to her friends that are divorced and they start pumping her with all of this information. “You can do this. You’re going to have to do that, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah,” and then they go ahead and move forward full steam ahead with all of this going on, thinking, “Well, this is exactly what’s going to happen,” and it doesn’t happen that way.
I’m convinced based on the way that she handled it that she felt that she was going to be able to get out of all of this scot-free, because for example, she filed that she wanted me to pay for her legal fees. Absolutely ridiculous. It was never going to possibly happen in a million years. Whether she knew that or not, remains to be seen. But the way that she handled herself, the assumption was, “Well, if we’re going to have to go to court, you’re going to have to pay for it all.”
She ended up having to pay her legal fees herself. It ended up being more than what she would have saved by me changing it now.
Why did she do it? It’s all about control. It manifests itself in the fact that she was not willing to work with me when I was in a situation I knew was going to come. That decision that she made had significant side effects for her, because it changed my entire outlook on the relationship with her for good. I knew at that point right there, that at the end of the day for her and she said it herself, any change with the money has to go through the court system. It became a matter in my mind, “It’s all about the money. It’s all about the financial piece with her,” and her actions proved that.
When we got divorced, I made the agreement for her. I would let her stay home full-time. I would pay for everything, full-time for her, until my son reached the age of two and I did that. Afterwards though, even after we changed that and the child support changed, it was still enough for her to live. Five days after my son turned two, the alimony ran out, her now husband, as a boyfriend, moved into the house with her. She couldn’t have done that before, because if he would have moved in before, then she would have lost the alimony.
Several years ago, things had changed within her world financially. I ended up going to her and this is exactly what I said, “I know that you’ve gotten a job. You didn’t have a job before. Now, we can either do this the easy way or we can do this the hard way, but one way or another, we’re going to do it. Oh, by the way, this time, I’m going to represent myself and I’ll let you figure your legal piece of it out on your own.”
She handled everything outside the court. She knew I was serious, and she knew the first time that she really had screwed up.
She ended up doing exactly what I offered her. And quite frankly, I think that she was concerned about the fact that she knew I could represent myself. I’m not a lawyer by trade, but I can do exactly what these guys were doing. I’ve gone through it twice. And she knew at the end of the day that she had a job. She knew that the financial component of the divorce had changed.
The Divorce Coach Says
It’s a rare couple that doesn’t argue about changes to child support and part of that is simply because each has opposing interests even though ultimately child support is for the benefit of the child … people rarely volunteer to pay more and managing with less is always an adjustment. However, Kyle’s experience speaks to treating child support as a business transaction and evaluating any proposed changes using rational, objective criteria. That means:
- Understanding your state’s child support formula so you know the impact of changes in your income and changes in the number of overnights, for example. Some states also place restrictions on the timing of modifications to child support. Changes in child support payments may have knock-on effects such as qualifying for a mortgage.
- Using your state’s formula to calculate your revised child support amount. Many states have calculators available online making it easy for you to do this yourself.
- Making sure the adjustment is meaningful to you, if you’re the one initiating the change. When doing this, don’t look just at the monthly amount but rather what the change would mean over the next year or until you anticipate an additional change. Factor in any legal fees you would incur in pursuing the change.
- Researching the legal process of making a change to child support. This may be a change that you can easily handle without needing to hire an attorney.
- Keeping an open mind and not ignoring advice that is contrary to what well-meaning friends are telling you. Every situation is different and even if your situation appears to be the same or similar to a friend’s, a judge could treat your case differently or the law may have changed. Don’t ignore the less favorable possibilities.
- Knowing that you could be opening a can of worms. Your ex may have a counter proposal on child support and may want other changes to the parenting plan. Are you prepared to deal with these?
If you and your ex do agree to changing your child support then do make sure it’s documented and do make sure it’s filed with the Court.
And btw … child support and parenting plans aren’t limited to married couples getting divorced … they can also apply to never-married couples who have a child together.
Kyle Bradford is a divorced father and founder of the website ChopperPapa, ‘High octane observations on manhood, divorce, relationships, fatherhood, and other intellectual roadkill’. He also hosts a monthly podcast, FatherhoodWideOpen, ‘Intelligent conversation on issues facing fatherhood and masculinity with the people who think and write on them.’ He lives, writes, and works in Atlanta, Georgia.