Divorce in Arkansas: Things You Need to Stop Fighting About #1- Child Support

August 15, 2016

Your divorce is looming. Unsolicited advice is being thrown at you from your family, divorced friends, and sometimes random strangers. I’ll be the first to tell you; don’t believe everything other people say about divorce. There is a lot of misinformation out there. Every divorce is different with different sets of issues. What may be perceived as typical of divorce to your friend may not really apply to your divorce. Please, please do not make your decisions based on your friend’s experience. That usually leads to unnecessary complication and fighting. Not to mention, a lot of needless attorneys fees. Here is the first of three things you need to stop fighting about right now.

Fight #1: Child Support

I see so much fighting and negotiation around paying child support. These people typically fall into one of two categories: people who try to avoid it at all costs, even if that means dragging the divorce out for a year by fighting over a Wal-Mart coffee table, and people who will give up everything just to avoid being forced to pay even $25 a week in child support. All rational thinking appears to have gone out the window for fear of the big, bad Office of Child Support Enforcement. Worse even, is that often times your kids are dragged into it all and you start arguing about custody because you will do whatever it takes to avoid child support even if that means becoming the custodial parent, regardless of whether that is really in the best interest of your kids or even a practical arrangement. I will cut you some slack. You are going through a difficult, unfamiliar, and over complicated process. Your emotions are taking over and you are not seeing the big picture. Let me help you. Below is a comparison of what you would spend based on a child support obligation of $520 per month for an average Arkansan’s monthly income of approximately $3000 with one child, versus the alternatives.

Monthly Child Support Payment                                                                                 $520 per month

Average Arkansas Attorneys fees at $300 per hour for just 10 additional hours of arguing (which would likely be a gross underestimate of the time spent fighting)                       $3000 per month                                                                               

Amount spent per child for necessities if you are the primary custodial parent (food, clothing, shelter, childcare)                                                                                             $1800 (conservatively)

Neither you nor the custodial parent can negotiate paying child support away because even if you aren’t ordered to pay it immediately, child support is a right belonging to your child and that right cannot be waived by either parent. I understand as the non-custodial parent who will be responsible for paying child support that you may be nervous about a government agency telling you what you have to pay and when. A lot of folks honestly believe that the court is out to get them. I know the whole situation really sucks but that is just not the case. Maybe this was based on an unfortunate personal experience with the court and even though that does happen, it’s the exception not the standard. Many of the horror stories that you hear about child support issues have occurred because of a lack of information about the process or miscommunication.

The Arkansas child support chart was created to set minimum guidelines for paying child support in Arkansas. These guidelines are equally applicable to everyone. Several factors are considered but primarily the court looks to the number of children you have and your income to make the initial determination about how much child support you should pay. I say initial because if circumstances change and you go through the proper channels to update your information, your child support obligation will be updated accordingly. Certain deductions are also allowed, which helps to ensure that the amount you are required to pay does not bankrupt you or create a hardship for you. If you are the non-custodial parent you will likely be ordered to pay child support for your child.

People understandably tend to be defensive when it comes to paying child support because they think the parent they are providing the support to will blow it on themselves. I realize that most of you accept that your children are your responsibility and have no problem taking care of your child. This money is for your child’s benefit and although the court doesn’t have the ability to micromanage how the custodial parent spends that money, it is either directly or indirectly going to support your child. You may be frustrated that the other parent is going out to eat all of the time or buying a fancy new car. Despite your opinions of the custodial parent’s spending habits, it costs a lot to raise a child and the primary custodial parent bears most of the expense. Now I know a lot of non-custodial parents will support their child beyond just the minimum child support required but your state mandated child support obligation alone doesn’t begin to cover even half of the child’s financial needs in most cases. If your child has shelter, clothes, childcare, and is being fed from the same pot of money that that the custodial parent just used to buy that new car, your money is going to your child. Was the purchase reckless or financially irresponsible? Maybe it was but be honest, the most important thing is that your child is being properly cared for.

Is there ever a good reason to argue about paying child support? Sure. However, more often than not it’s an unnecessary battle that you spend a lot of money and waste a lot of time to lose. Learn how Arkansas Virtual Lawyer advocates for more peaceful divorces here.