In a situation where (in 2017) a couple has only one child, and there are no joint children, and one spouse earns about $15 an hour, or $2,600 per month (i.e. $31,200 per year), and the other spouse earns about $25 per hour, or about $4,330 per month (i.e. $51,960 per year), for a total family income of $83,160, increasing parenting time by just one day per week, on average, will likely change the child support amount by about $180 per month. That is a difference of about $2,160. Even this difference may not seem like much. Over the lifetime of a child (21 years for an infant who goes on to college), this makes a difference of $45,360, however.
Even in just a 10 year period (i.e. child support for an 8 year old, who does not continue past high school), the difference wold be $21,600.
While one never wants to engage in litigation just for the sake of litigation, and while a parent sometimes wants to go along with a change in parenting time in order to get along with the other parent, this can be a mistake for a variety of reasons.
What should be done is what is best for the child.
One should not lose sight of the fact that adequate child support is often very important for the well being of the child, and agreeing to things which reduce support can be very harmful from the perspective of ensuring that the child has proper support.
On the other hand, agreeing to things which increase support above a certain level can leave the non-custodial parent short of the resources needed to rent a proper place, and otherwise to have the resources to properly parent the child during visitation periods.
When there are several children, or when the incomes of the parents are higher, or even when there is simply a greater spread between the incomes of husband and wife, the differences in child support that result from even what seems like a minor adjustment of parenting time are significantly greater.
It can be expensive to fight for custody. It can be almost as expensive to fight for a change in parenting time, or seek a schedule that is different than the court’s standard parenting plan. It can also be very expensive to defend against an attempt to implement a parenting that is different than the court’s standard parenting plan.
Some of these litigation costs relate directly to the parenting plan, and to issues directly relating to parenting time.
Some of these litigation costs and legal expenses seem unrelated to such issues. However, if one does not adequately prepare for non-parenting issues, one runs the risk that these non-parenting issues will become bargaining chips that are set against parenting issues, even though setting parenting issues and property issues against one another is officially frowned on.
Expending money to resolve these non-custody and non-parenting time issues can be well spent, even from the perspective of custody and parenting time, since this may reduce the issues for trial, and may remove bargaining chips that the other side might use in negotiations.
Decisions made at the time of a divorce trial, or a custody or parenting plan modification, can have far reaching effects for the future of a child, and for both parents, both financially, and in terms of the well being of both of the parents and the child.
Steven A. Heinrich
Divorce & Custody
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