Monday, November 03, 2008

Explaining child support

A reader questioned whether I am paying child support for my kids' schooling. The question shows a misunderstand of how child support works.

Most people think that child support involves paying a couple of hundred bucks a months in order to cover basic necessities for the kid. That is not how it works anymore.

In the 1990s, the child support system became more of a taxation and welfare system. If the mom has custody of the kid, and she goes on welfare, then the welfare agency seeks reimbursement from the dad. If she is not on welfare, then she can get paid directly from the dad, based on his income and unrelated to any needs of the kid. To the dad, it is just another income tax. To the mom, it is just like welfare money that she can spend however she wishes. It does not have to be spent on the kid.

In California, if they have two kids, the dad has to pay the mom 40% of his after-tax income. That is called "guideline child support". It is not alimony; if there is alimony then that is in addition. The money is tax-free for the mom.

The family courts are not supposed to even look at costs like housing, clothing, food, schooling, etc. The govt authorities decided that would complicate the welfare system too much. The guidelines are based on a belief that the mom herself should have a standard of living similar to the dad. If the mom wants to just put the money in the bank, that is her privilege.

So I pay 40% of my after-tax income to my ex-wife, tax-free. She has remarried, so she also gets 50% of her husband's pre-tax income. That is California law. All other states also have official child support formulas, but the exact percentages vary from state to state.

So yes, I am paying for schooling and everything else. My ex-wife has the discretion in how to spend it. I also pay property taxes that fund the public schools.

The family court judge is obligated to follow the child support guideline in nearly all cases, under federal law. The federal welfare system requires it. The judge can only deviate from the guideline if the facts prove that there are extraordinary circumstances that would make the guideline unjust.

Commissioner Irwin H. Joseph has deviated from guideline in three ways, based on what he claims are extraordinary circumstances. First, he claims that I could have invested my savings differently, and earned more income. So I have to pay 40% of that income that I am not really making. Second, I have one daughter who takes a lot of dance classes, and he ordered me to pay an extra $250 per month to pay for dance classes. Third, he claims that my house is bigger than it needs to be since the kids moved out, and I have equity in the house, so he ordered me to pay an extra $1062 per month to compensate my ex-wife. I have never figured out the logic to that one. I already got the appeals court to reverse him on this point, but he keeps making me pay it anyway.

So I am actually paying much more than 40% of my after-tax income to my ex-wife. It must be nice for her to have two men who are each paying half their income to her. She is also a lawyer, and can earn a good salary herself. I really do not believe that she is being financially mistreated.


Anonymous said...

I don't doubt you are paying child support. What I doubt is that you are being financially gouged. You likely went to private schools yourself, you likely have plenty of money... so why begrudge your daughter dance lessons?

And how is it that you own your house outright with no mortgage? Does your ex not have a share in that house? California real estate is pricey. It sounds like the house is locked up in a trust or something out of reach, so the judge comes up with creative ways to get some of your family wealth to your daughters.

You've never said your wife has gotten a lump sum, or pay out, so I presume she has gotten nothing but what you've mentioned; a few months of spousal support, then child support for your 2 daughters.

How many years were you married? Usually couples split the assets - how is it that you haven't had to do that? So, again, no sympathy "George".

Anonymous said...

70% of his money goes to a Woman that won't allow him to see his children then attempts to destroy him even more. George gets all my sympathy.

Anonymous said...

Let's have a bit of sanity here. According to California law, both parents are obligated to support their children. Child support should be nothing more than an equalizing payment between two working parents. That is not what is happening here. One is still talking about molesting the dad "for the sake of the children."

In most cases, therefore there should be little or no child support. Since collection agencies are required in most cases and take a cut, what it does mostly is grease the system, hence the tendency to maximize child support rather than calculate it fairly.

Anonymous said...

I can relate on both sides of the fence. My husband pays child support that is decided on his gross income. He would not even be able to support himself if he were single. His ex-wife will not even buy their daughter underwear! She gets CS from 2 different fathers plus she's remarried. She doesn't work and she's made her living mooching off of men.

I, on the other hand, am supposed to receive CS, but my daughter's father has only paid me for about 3 of 8 years. He's almost $30,000.00 behind, yet there have been no consequences for him.

My husband and I struggle so much because of all he has to pay. I not only have to work my butt off to make up the difference for what he has to pay in child support and what I don't receive. Where is the justice in family courts?

I am sorry for "The Angry Dad" for what he is experiencing. Like I said, I'm on both sides of the fence and there is NO justice in the family courts system. No justice for me, for my husband, but especially NO justice for the kids!!!!!

Anonymous said...

"so the judge comes up with creative ways to get some of your family wealth to your daughters."

Wrong! the judge has come up with creative ways of giving his ex probably far more than she deserves and is well in excess of the cost of supporting a child(ren). Also, why is it that he should split his assets? I know many women who brought absolutely nothing into a marriage. In this age of equality, shouldn't she be only entitled to a share of the assets accumulated DURING a marriage?

Anonymous said...

It is not only men who have to pay. In California, there is a formula, and whoever makes the most money pays up. I am a single mother of two who has to pay my deadbeat exhusband child support. So when he loses job after job, I get to pay him more, because I make more money. This IS the age of equality, but the system is screwed up. Why should I pay him MORE for him sitting on his butt more? Granted I made a bad choice in spouse, but now I struggle to make ends meet...while still provided most of the financial, social and emotional upbringing for my child.

George said...

The court should not punish you for making a bad choice in a spouse. Child support is counterproductive in a lot of cases.

Anonymous said...

I've got one even better for you-I am divorced, have two teenage children that chose to live with their dad because he lets them do like they want. VA law says if a child is 12 or over, they can decide who they want to live with. My X is self employed, takes frequent vacations with my children and the woman (that he left me for) and her children. He is self employed, therefore, he can falsify his earnings. When we were married, he handled all of our money. When we split, I saw why he never wanted me to know what was going on with our money-we were tail deep in debt. We walked away, with no assets to split, only bills. I make much less than he does, yet I have a much lower lifestyle, while he and his girlfriend enjoy all the benefits of my hard work! I want to pay child support for my children, and do all that I can. I have always paid their insurance, medical expenses, and bought their clothes. Now I pay car insurance too. Now, with the new child support order, I'll probably have to file bankruptcy, while my x, kids, and his girlfriend and her kids live it up!

Kariuki said...

The US and other western states have created a mess of the child support law. First, by supporting the custodial parent, who is usually a woman they ignore the work that the non-custodial parent has done. I relate to the angry dad because I simply walked away from the system and I do not have intentions to return to the Western world. It makes me mad to shuttle my child from my house to meet my ex wife to a bus stop for exchange. It makes me mad to not know where my child lives and where she goes to school, yet, I pay 40% tax.
There is no need for me to be angry anymore. I simply used this energy to do some research and found that the anger stems from the belief that the child will hate me eventually. And sure enough, custodial mothers teach their children to hate non custodial parents especially when the NCP do not pay.
The future of a human being is usually about 70 years if they are lucky. I will take my chances and live a life away from the Western world and its money madness.
Angry dads out there - quit being angry and note that your child will never hate you and statistics show that children always find their parents. It is how you behave when they find you that counts.

Anonymous said...

I understand what you are going through. My son's mother lied to the Division of Family Services concerning my child support payments. Got money from me up front, signed a notarized document, the Division of Family Services looked in the computer thought I wasn't paying child support, and put her on government assistance. After figuring out that she lied to them, the Division of Family Services covered it up by throwing my case out and ignoring my requests. Don't worry, they do this kind of stuff to tons of fathers. There is nothing you can do about it, like so many other fathers. I feel sorry for you, but there is nothing you can do about it. Your anger will only hurt your child in the long run because the mother knows that your children is her strongest weapon against you.