In this article, you will learn:
- If the paying parent has any say in how child support is spent
- Why the “deadbeat dad” myth may not hold water
The purpose of child support is to provide support for a child, which seems pretty self-explanatory, and it is. However, you don’t really have a say in how much that support is. It doesn’t work like that. The dollar amount is going to be determined by the Arizona Child Support Guidelines, and probably 90 to 95% of the time we’re just going to plug the factors into the guidelines calculator and it’s going to give us a number which is going to be your child support amount. You don’t get to say anything about how that is spent. If mom takes that money and spends it all to buy all the latest makeup, you don’t get to say “Hey, you’re supposed to spend it out on the kid.” She is providing the minimum things the kid needs, a home, clothes, food, and if you don’t like what she spends the child support on, too bad.
So, I know that seems unfair, but that’s what happens. If you want to prevent that, if you really want to have some control over where that money goes, the best way to do that is to have an equal parenting plan, and to have similar incomes because that will result in fairly low or potentially no child support. In the alternative, become the primary residential parent and get mom to pay you support. But if you don’t do those things, if you let mom care for the kid all the time and barely exercise your parenting time, and if you spend all your time at work and no time with your kid, she’s going to get a lot of money, and guess what, she gets to treat herself, and there’s nothing you can do about that.
The myth surrounding “deadbeat dads” who do not want to pay child support
Sometimes when you first learn what your child support payment will be your gut reaction is “I can’t afford that,” and some of that goes back to good dad or bad dad, where good dad got involved and got a child support payment set up based on his finances and the appropriate factors, whereas bad dad wasn’t involved in the process at all, got a default judgment against him with the wrong income attributed to him, and suddenly realizes after it’s been entered that it is too much. So, that’s sometimes part of a problem, and it results in a payment that they can’t afford, and they start to fall behind. Then, the next thing you know, they’re in the enforcement court.
But another factor I’ve seen quite a bit lately is just a lot of simple economic problems. We’re coming out of a pandemic, rent is out of control, inflation’s all over the place, and that can make it hard. People have lost jobs and sometimes that causes problems for paying the child support, and when it is honestly not your fault, the court’s typically not going to punish you for that. But if you lose your job and you say, “I can’t pay support,” good dad’s going to go and find a job so he can pay, and he’ll be able to tell the judge as much. Say what you will about the economy, everywhere I go, they’re hiring someone. Bad dad’s going to say “I lost my job, I guess I don’t have any money.” They’re not going to take a step to fix that, and the court’s going to take a dim view of that because you have a duty to support your child. If you haven’t taken any steps to try to fix the problem, the court may very well punish you, or may make your life a lot more difficult until you do solve the problem.
Only one party is going to be obligated to pay support, and more often than not, from what I’ve seen, that party is dad. When dads have something happened that causes them to stop paying support, usually I see mom come in and start withholding kids, which is not allowed. You don’t get to withhold parenting time if you’re not being paid support, but they’ll do it, and sometimes dad won’t do anything about that. Then their relationship gets fractured, and then mom goes to modify parenting time and says, “He hasn’t been paying, he hasn’t been spending time with the kids and they’re not having a relationship with him, so he should have less time,” and it can spiral into this big problem. If mom withholds because dad isn’t paying support, dad needs to go to court to solve that problem ASAP.
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