Every state has its own guidelines for deciding child support amounts and has worksheets to help determine that amount. Unfortunately, clerical errors happen, as do mistakes from one or both parents because they are unaware of requirements. It can save you tons of money (or increase the amount you receive) by simply checking the worksheets have been filled out correctly. Check for these common mistakes.
- Income. Make sure that both incomes are listed correctly. The amount listed should be the gross (before deductions) amount that each parent receives and not the net (what your check actually is) amount. To be sure your amounts are correct, check income tax returns.
- Overnight Visits. Child support payments are based on how many nights the children will be with each parent. The court assumes that whatever parent has the child overnight will incur expenses such as transportation and food. Make sure your worksheet has the correct number of overnights listed for each parent.
- Mandatory Retirement Contributions or Union Dues. If you have to pay union dues or are required to deposit money into a retirement account, the court will lower your available income amount and this will reduce the amount you have to pay or increase what you receive.
- Health Insurance. The amount you have to pay for health insurance for your children is a consideration in the amount of child support. Make sure your health insurance contributions are listed on your worksheet.
- Income Tax Filing Status. Make sure that your filing status is correct on your worksheet. Many clerks just assign a filing status of “single” with one exemption. If you plan on filing as “head of household” you will be paying too much or receiving too little.
- Alimony and other Child Support Orders. If you are paying alimony or child support for another child, the court will take these amounts into consideration because you have less income to consider. Make sure these amounts are listed on your worksheet and that the amounts are correct.
- Sole or Shared Custody. While many parents agree to share parenting roles, if shared custody is listed in the child support orders, the courts will assume that the children are living with both parents equally and the amount you pay or receive will be less. Make sure your worksheet shows whether you have sole custody or shared.
It may seem like a hassle to ask to see the child support worksheet that was used to determine the amount you will pay or receive, but mistakes are made every day. You don’t want a simple math mistake to cost you thousands of dollars over the period of the child support orders. Take the time to check the worksheet!
If you are currently involved in a divorce and require legal guidance, before you spend thousands of dollars in legal fees, check out our ebook “The Child Support Manual.” This ebook will give you the information you need to make educated decisions about child support, such as how to negotiate amounts, what to expect if you have to go to court and how to find a lawyer who specializes in family law. Grab your copy here.