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Divorce sucks. And while it isn’t a fun topic, unfortunately, nearly half of all marriages end in divorce. If you were blessed with children, you need to know how to budget your child support payment each month. This goes for both the payor and the payee.
Now, before we get started, I must say that I am not an attorney. This does not constitute legal advice, and if you have questions about family law, you should consult an attorney in your state.
Not many of you know this, but I was married to my first husband for 7 years before we separated, and it took us one full year of court before the divorce was finalized.
I did not consult an attorney. At the time, in Georgia, child support was calculated using a standard calculator available on the State’s website, and my ex-husband and I agreed on the State-recommended child support amount, visitation, and other specifics.
For example, each of us is required to carry $100,000 of term life insurance with the other being the beneficiary until our daughter reaches 18 years of age.
When I separated from my ex-husband, I was on a tight budget and couldn’t afford internet service at my apartment. I made a huge mistake and used the public wifi at McDonald’s and also bootlegged my neighbor’s WIFI to do research on child support.
I should have researched the best VPN, or virtual private networks, to protect my credit card information, tax returns saved on my computer, and other sensitive data. Lesson learned!
Child Support Payment Budgeting Tips for the Payor
When you’re ordered to pay child support, instead of living with your spouse and supporting the entire family, your support is broken into payments (monthly, semi-monthly, etc).
Budgeting for this amount can seem super stressful, and it takes a lot of adjusting (especially at first).
My brother has given me permission to speak about his story a bit here and it’s worth sharing.
When he divorced his ex-wife, Jocelyn, he was ordered to pay nearly $1,000 per month for his daughter. Unfortunately, they also owed approximately $30,000 worth of unsecured debt. Understandably, he was ordered to pay half of the debt until his share was paid off to the tune of approximately $250 per month.
Child support payment plus debt payment of $1,250 (again an estimate) is quite a lot of money. In fact, it was even more than their mortgage at the time.
Shortly after he was ordered this child support amount, my brother took a huge risk and quit his six-figure job. His new job under-delivered and he ended up taking a massive pay cut. When you quit or lose your job, you are still legally obligated to pay your child support payments every month.
If he’d have lost his job, he could have gone to the court and requested a modification of support payments, after proving he had lost his high paying job and was only able to find work for far less than before.
Then his child support payment would have possibly been adjusted and arrangements could have been made.
But because he left his job at his own free will, he the risk did not pay off.
When You Can’t Afford Child Support
Jason buried the problem, much like so many others who don’t have the money to pay their bills. He didn’t open his mail. He fought constantly with his ex-wife.
And even though child support and visitation are actually not contingent on one another, he was withheld his rights to see his daughter.
In Jocelyn’s defense, Jason had moved hours away and now had a girlfriend who was pretty toxic. Jocelyn was trying to do what was best for my niece, but it really hurt my brother. Consequently, he became a hardened person. His driver’s license was revoked for failure to pay child support.
He constantly worried that he wouldn’t pass a background check because of this.
Jason even looked for jobs that would pay him as a 1099 independent contractor to avoid garnishment of his child support payment. He felt hopeless, and his entire life unraveled.
A few years later, he has two other kids with the other woman, and they are no longer together. Because he wasn’t able to modify his support and his ex-wife wasn’t allowing him to see his daughter, Jocelyn’s new husband adopted my niece.
By giving up his rights, he is no longer obligated to pay additional child support going forward. But he still owes approximately $24,000 in back child support that he will eventually have to face.
I can’t stress this enough. If you can’t afford child support, it might be time to go to the judge and request modification based on your circumstances.
If you can’t afford an attorney, see if there is child support legal aid or a pro bono family law firm that can help.
What can you do instead if you’re behind?
1. Talk to the judge. Explain your circumstances. And ask for modification.
2. Set up payment arrangements with child support services.
3. Make your child support payments a priority. You should always budget your “four walls” first…housing, utilities, food…this includes four walls for your children. So if you have to put other payments on the back burner, it’s worth it.
You do not want to get behind on your monthly child support payment…under any circumstances!
4. Work like crazy. Take on second and third jobs if you have to. Put together a list of ways to make money on the side and get to work! If you have to donate blood plasma every single month for an extra $400, do it! Your child is worth it!
5. Remember: You don’t have to be “Disney Dad” or “Magic Kingdom Mom” when you see your kids! They don’t need all of the latest toys, gadgets, trips, etc. They want time with you! There are plenty of things you can do for free or cheap. Don’t go into debt trying to make up for time lost with the kids or trying to compete with the other parent!
6. Communicate with your ex! Fighting, arguing, cutting each other down and using the kids as pawns are some of the worst things you can do in this situation. Communicate with each other about what is best for the kids. Pay something every single month. If you can afford any extras, cut those out and send those as payments for your child support.
7. Send it via Walmart Money Center if you don’t have a bank account. My ex-husband frequently sends his child support payments via MoneyGram because he doesn’t like snail mail. Whatever works!
Child Support Budgeting for the Recipient
Budgeting your child support payment every month is absolutely crucial to your financial success. If you aren’t already budgeting your money, it’s time to start now. In this section, I’m speaking to women primarily because in most cases, they are the custodial parent who receives child support.
I realize that this isn’t always the case, but for the sake of this conversation, let’s assume you’re a divorced mom receiving support for your kids who live in your home.
First, let’s dispel a myth about child support. Despite what your ex may say or think about child support, it is not your child’s money. In other words, you don’t have to set aside the full amount of child support in a savings account so that you can buy your children whatever they want.
Monthly housing costs, gas to drive them to and from school and practices, food, child care, clothing, utilities are all expenses that must be paid in order to care for your child.
My suggestion (and what I’ve done from day one of receiving child support) is to add the child support to your total income for the month. Then plan your budget accordingly. If you don’t know how to make a personal budget, check out this post. It details exactly how to budget each paycheck and which bills take priority.
Something I did not do from day one that I wish I would have was setting aside money for college from the child support immediately.
You also should be paying off debt as fast as you possibly can because the less debt you have, the more security you and your children have. You can get a free copy of my debt snowball calculator here to see how long it will take you to pay off debt based on your income and expenses.
When budgeting your child support payments, keep in mind that the goal is to provide a happy and healthy home environment for your children. You also want to set a good example by showing them you know how to manage your money. Please let me know if you need some encouragement or guidance when it comes to managing your support payments. And if you’re a support payor who needs legal help, don’t forget to reach out for legal aid in your area.
I’ve done all the things! Girl, I’ve washed my face. I’ve trashed everything that doesn’t spark joy. I’ve walked the baby steps. I’ve cried. I’ve prayed, but my perfectionism has really held me back.
Perfection Hangover can be crippling. Stop comparing yourself to others and start living your best life! That’s why PH exists! I want to encourage you to take control of your money, your blog, and your business.