Even the most amicable divorce has its fair share of difficulties, most of which revolve around finances and child support payments. While there are state based child support guidelines in place that handle basic expenses, it fails to address all of the other expenses associated with raising a child.
While each state has child support guidelines or a custom built system, they are only servicing 16 million parents in the United States. Estimates show that an additional 39 Million parents are exchanging child support and sharing child expenses. The 60% of parents not using any state support guidelines are left to try to manage the child support process on their own.
Below are 5 state child support guidelines do not work
1. Base Support Only
State child support guidelines only manage base child support payments or payments that have a set amount each month. There is no state guideline in place that also manages additional or incremental expenses that need to be shared between parents, or other expenses that may fluctuate over time.
Examples include, but are not limited to, childcare, education, extracurricular activities, doctors’ visits, etc. In many cases, depending on the time of the year or the age of the child costs may change, yet current state child support guidelines are not equipped to manage these changes. They can only handle payments that are the same each month. If there is a need to split or share an expense the system won’t work. These systems are typically very antiquated, averaging 10 years or older, and focus on collecting and distributing base support payments.
2. No Receipt, Payment, or Document Management
In many cases, additional documentation or information needs to be provided in order to adequately manage child support. For example, in many instances when childcare is added to the base child support payment, a receiving parent may be asked at any time to provide receipts for the childcare. If they are unable to provide receipts, the state can take that money away from the parent. However, the state systems do not offer a way to store, share, send or manage documents such as receipts, payment proof, etc.
3. Child Support Agencies: Overworked and Understaffed
State child support enforcement agencies continue to suffer from budget cuts. These budget cuts are impacting the ability to update antiquated systems or have enough staff to manage child support cases. The main goal of the state child support enforcement agencies is to collect child support in order to offset the costs of supporting parents and children receiving public assistance. If you are a parent who does not fall into this category, the likelihood of getting assistance or help from an already overburdened enforcement agency drops dramatically.
4. No Payment History, Calculations, and Records
In the vast majority of state systems, there is a very limited amount of information available for parents to see how much they have paid or received in the past. When it comes to arrears, or late child support payment, most states do not provide a breakdown of how the child support balance is calculated. With APR rates ranging from 8% – 12% on past due child support and inadequate information on balance calculations, parents don’t know if what is reported is the correct amount.
In addition, receiving parents rarely, if ever, receive notifications that payment has or has not been made. Most of the time the only way for them to know is by manually checking their bank account. When it comes to tax preparation or filing for a child support modification parents must manually find proof of payments either made or received.
5. Lack of Transparency Leads to Conflict
The lack of transparency regarding child support causes the greatest conflict between parents and leads to parents who stop paying and participating in their children’s lives. According to thousands of parents ordered to pay child support, the biggest complaint regarding child support payments revolves around transparency of the finances. In fact, the most common response from these parents is: “I have no problem paying my share of supporting my children. I simply want to know the money is going to my child.”
When it comes to the receiving parents the biggest complaint is “The other parent has no idea how expensive the children really are. They don’t do the shopping or sign them up for their activities.” Without keeping your own detailed records for every purchase made for the child, there is no way the receiving parent can demonstrate the true cost of raising a child. Instead, receiving parents are often left arguing with the other parent about what their child(ren) needs, and how the money is spent.
Apps and websites that are built to provide automated and standard approaches to managing child support and sharing those expenses are a valuable tool for parents working together to financially support their children. They are also valuable tools for a parent who needs to prove in court how much they’ve spent on a child, how much support they did or, didn’t receive, and, on the other hand, a parent who needs to prove they did pay their ordered support.
In addition, parents get all the additional functionality that state guidelines don’t offer. If parents are currently managing base support through a state system, these apps give parents one place to go for all of their child support information. Using apps such as SupportPay and 2Houses.com, parents will spend less time managing child support, engaging in conflict over how it is spent, and more time raising and enjoying healthy, happy children.