By Gerald Shoemaker, AAML Penn Fellow | Hangley Aronchick Segal Pudlin & Schiller PC
1. If I get 50/50 or equally shared physical custody, I do not have to pay child support. This is not true. Even if parents have a 50/50 custody arrangement, support is still owed from the parent who makes more. There is an adjustment in how much support will be paid by that parent but support, nonetheless, is due.
2. I am remarried and my new spouse’s income is utilized when calculating a child support obligation. Your new spouse has no obligation to support your children. As a result, your spouse’s income is not a data point used when calculating a support obligation. The court, however, can deviate once it arrives at the support number based upon other household income. Deviations for this reason are rare.
3. Since I am the one receiving child support, I have to pay all the expenses for the kids. This is not accurate. The Support Guidelines specifically include certain extra expenses which are above and beyond the base child support payment. These expenses include work-related childcare expenses, summer camps, extra-curricular activities, unreimbursed medical expenses and private school expenses. The court has authority to award these in addition to the base child support payment, but you should check with your attorney to determine if it is likely the court would award these to you as they are not guaranteed.
4. Nothing will happen to me if I do not pay my support. To the contrary, many things may and likely will happen to you. For example, the court can deny you a license (drivers’, hunting or other) and can seize your tax refund. In addition, the court can take action to take money directly from your bank account to pay your child support. In egregious circumstances, the court will incarcerate a person who is not paying support.
5. I file for child support at any time and the court will award it to me back to the date when the child was born or when me and my partner separated. The court is only permitted to grant support from the time you actually file a request for support through domestic relations. It will not grant support to someone for a period of time prior to that official filing. For that reason, it is important to file when you know the other party is not going to pay.
6. I am currently paying child support, my income has gone up but I do not have to let anyone know. If you are paying support through the court (as opposed to paying directly to the other parent), you are obligated to let the court and the other parent know of any changes that would impact the calculation of support. This would include changes in income as well as other changes, such as custody, or an increase or decrease of other expenses which are paid in addition to the base support amount. If you fail to do so, the court can retroactively change the order to the time when your income increased (or other change occurred that was not reported). In addition, the court has the ability to award counsel fees to the other party for having to seek the retroactive change in support for which disclosure was not provided.
7. I do not think I am the father of the child but I will worry about that after we finish with the determination of support. Once you agree to a support order, you are conclusively the father. The time to challenge paternity is at the outset of the filing of support. If you fail to do so and a final support order is entered against you, you will be required to pay child support until the child is 18 or graduates from high school, whichever occurs later in time.
8. If I am not seeing my child, I do not have to pay child support. This is a fallacy. Many people assume if the other parent is withholding custody, then the parent not seeing the child can withhold child support, but this is inaccurate. Child support and child custody are two separate issues and the withholding of custody does not eliminate a party’s obligation to pay support.