I want you to picture yourself in this scenario: Your spouse decides one day that he/she does not want to be married to you anymore, sues you in court, gets your child or children full time and you get to see them every other week for a few hours. How does this make you feel?
Now add the fact that you have to pay your ex 17% of your salary non-deductible for one child and more for additional children. Now how does this make you feel?
Unfortunately, this situation happens on a daily basis. It is called the child support lottery. The custodial parent receives a monthly payment until the child turns 21 or 22 years of age. In some situations, this might be OK because maybe you did not want to be married either and you would rather the child or children be with the other parent. That’s OK, but what would happen if you wanted the children and the courts decide to award custody of the child to the other parent and also award the other parent a monthly income you have to pay to cover food shelter and clothing for the children. The food and clothing part may feel OK, but what about the shelter. You would not feel good about your money paying down a mortgage while you get no tax benefit, you are not building up equity and you are not the benefactor of the appreciation on the house.
History tells us that children were considered assets over 100 years ago and the father was the one to get custody of the children. Now parents push to get sole custody of the child to help them win the jackpot and child support lottery. They may not even want the children, but they want the money, so push for custody of the children.
In the 1900’s, society came to a recognition that mothers were better care takers for the children than the fathers and the fathers were better at making money. That is when custody of children starting going to the Mothers. The mothers then had to rely on the fathers giving them money to help support them and the children.
During the depression, fathers started deserting their families and that’s why the child support laws came into play.
In just recent years, society recognizes the key roles both the mother and the father have in the children’s life. We realize it is better to have both parents in the children’s lives and most of the time this is the way the children prefer it as well. Instead of sole custody, now the courts are awarding joint custody and a new term called “shared parenting” has come into play.
Two issues have arisen since this new realization. First, the laws and the courts still push sole custody initially instead of pushing for “shared parenting” situations. Second, the courts do not provide any direction for child support other than one parent becomes the financial clearinghouse for all the child expenses. The only issue with this is that when the “non-custodial” parent has the child, all those expenses are not covered by child support. The custodial parent gets 17% for one child from the non-custodial parent and the custodial parent keeps their income. Hence the term “child support lottery”. They win a monthly income that can be used to pay down a mortgage for themselves, buy a car, vacations, trips, etc. How nice for them!
It is time to start pushing for shared parenting legislature and fairness within the child support structure. The children should not sacrifice one parent for another. Even though parents divorce, the children should not lose a parent. Also, the courts need to recognize that there are child care expenses for both parents when they are with the child such as food, entertainment , which can be expensive. When the child is with the non-custodial parent there needs to be accessories such as a bed, furniture, clothing, toys. All of this gets expensive on top of the 17% given out. If the calculation for childcare cost 17% of the annual salary for one child for example, then add these other expenses on top of this, it makes it very difficult to support one self, pay their own rent, and save for retirement. This puts the individual in a very complicated and compromising position which then starts to weigh heavy on the care of the child. The non-custodial has to cut back on all the enjoyable activities they would love to share with their child but due to the paid amount it turns out that the custodial parent then gets the opportunity to indulge in these activities like trips to Disney world, summer vacations etc. Then what does that look like for the
non-custodial parent, not too favorable from the child’s point of view, Many times we hear the child say they don’t want to go to the non-custodial parent because they are bored, “we don’t do anything, Dad doesn’t want to go anywhere.” That’s because he can’t afford it! He would love to, but mom has his money.
The courts need to re- calculate the shared parenting percentage and with that we may see the justice and fairness that non-custodials are due.