Don’t Make THIS Child Support Mistake, My Friend
The Case FOR Child Support
Written by: Tracy Augustin
Here’s a fun multiple choice question to test your knowledge of how child support works in the State of Arizona:
You and your long-term girlfriend of five years, Jill, had a baby three months ago. You are currently living together and raising the child jointly, but you fear that the two of you are headed towards a break up. Which one of the following do you do? (Pick the best answer).
a. Absolutely nothing; it’s always better just to bury your head in the sand and hope your problems go away.
b. Proactively run out that day and file a Petition to Establish Paternity, Legal Decision-Making and Parenting Time. You ignore the issue of child support because why would you want to give her any money after the break-up?
c. Proactively run out that day and file a Petition to Establish Paternity, Legal Decision-Making, Parenting Time AND Child Support.
d. Start making payments directly to Jill in the form of diapers, formula and baby clothes, as well as making cash payments to her on a monthly basis. The two of you have figured out an informal arrangement for a parenting time schedule.
Got your answer!?!
How Did You Score?
Well, I hope you ruled out “a.” As with most cases, burying your head in the sand is typically not a good response to any situation.
If you answered “b,” I will say that you are on the right track, but it’s still not the best answer. At some point you and Jill are going to need to figure out legal decision-making and parenting time (likely sooner, rather than later), and since you will be going through the court to establish everything, it really doesn’t make sense to ignore the issue of child support.
Choice “d” is also probably not the best answer. Although you are taking into consideration the fact that financially supporting your child is important, you are forgetting that you have not officially put the “world” on notice that you are your child’s father, and thus, will likely not be able to make any legal decisions on behalf of your child. Plus, you are opening yourself up to issues in the future if you and Jill stop getting along in the future.
Your Cash Child Support Payments Could Be Considered…GIFTS!!
One of the major issues, and the subject of this blog, has to do with the fact that most of those “support” payments you were thinking of making to Jill in the form of diapers, formula and baby clothes will not be counted as child support. Even more frustrating is the fact that even those cash payments you might make to Jill may not count as child support payments, but rather, will be considered to be GIFTS!
Yes, I said it…GIFTS!
Maybe you purchased every morsel of food that went into your child’s mouth and provided every article of clothing that your child ever wore, either directly or indirectly, by providing Jill cash to purchase the items. No dice, though. NONE of that is going to count towards child support.
Why is that? Well, all child support ordered in the State of Arizona is required to go through the Clearinghouse (a bureaucratic agency that handles child support in AZ). (And yes, you have to pay the Clearinghouse a “fee” to “handle” your child support payment).
The saving grace to your problem may be the fact that if you and Jill are getting along so swimmingly, she may agree to waive any potential claim for past due support against you. In other words, this means that Jill may single-handedly determine (a) whether you only owe prospective child support or (b) whether you owe prospective child support AND past due child support. This could get scary for you…
Your Past Child Support Obligation Could Go Back For Years
Technically, according to Arizona law, when a new Petition to Establish Child Support is filed, there may be past due child support going back up to 3 years. Let’s break that possibility down into a real, powerful example (that I’ve actually dealt with more than once in my practice):
Let’s say, hypothetically, that instead of your baby being 3 months old, your child is 3 years old, and you are just now going to court to establish child support. Well, it’s possible that you may owe back child support going back to the day your child was born. And let’s just say for the purposes of this example, your child support obligation is $500 a month. Well, that means that you could potentially owe $18,000 ($500 x 3 years x 12 months) in back child support! And if that isn’t bad enough, interest potentially will be tacked onto this amount, too.
So that, my friend, is the reason why you should consider putting yourself on child support through the courts. And, if you decide, after reading this, that it is not worth it…Well, don’t say I didn’t warn you!