Would it surprise you to learn that the divorce rate in the United States is dropping? In the year 2000, 944,000 Americans untied the knot—a rate of approximately four per 1,000 people. By 2021, however, that number had fallen--only 2.5 of 1,000 got divorced that year. That's a pretty big drop!
Of course, those statistics don't mean very much when it comes to the experience and feelings of the folks getting a divorce. While there are some splits that are amicable, quick, and relatively painless, the majority include some snags at one point or another as the proceedings unfold. Chief among those snags? Disputes concerning child custody and financial child support.
How Child Support Is Supposed to Work
The laws surrounding divorce and child support are created at the state level, so the exact details of any such support agreement will vary depending on where the parties live. However, in most cases, child support is a periodic payment made by the non-custodial parent to their custodial counterpart—in other words, the parent who has primary custody of the child(ren)—to help pay for their offspring's basic living expenses, such as shelter, clothing, food, school supplies, and medical care.
The premise behind child support is ensuring that the child doesn't suffer ill economic effects of the divorce. In the majority of custody agreements, the mother has primary custody but a lower income than the father. Traditionally, therefore, the dad in the divorce is the one who contributes by paying child support—although there are certainly plenty of cases where the mom (or a same-sex parent) is the payer rather than the payee.
Determining the Amount of Child Support
All states set their own laws regarding how to calculate child support amounts, but they generally conform to one of a few different models: the Income Share Model, the Melson Formula, and the Percentage of Income Model. Only this last method is based on the non-custodial parent's finances. As the title implies, it designates a percentage of their salary, other income, and assets to be paid monthly.
Discovering Details Before the Divorce Is Final
Ideally, the family law attorney representing the non-custodial parent will work to obtain a complete picture of the custodial parent's income, in addition, to accurately presenting their own client's financial assets before the divorce and custody arrangements are finalized. This is called “discovery,” and just as in criminal law, it allows transparency for both parties.
Unfortunately, sometimes, the non-custodial parent may become aware that there's something afoot with their ex's economic situation. They begin to suspect that whatever's happening is a deliberate ploy to hoodwink the party paying child support—with an intent to maximize the amount of money they receive.
Common “Hiding Places” for Custodial Parents' Income
It's incumbent upon the non-custodial parent and their attorney to find and present evidence of this ploy. They can do so by poring over banking and credit card statements, tax returns, loan applications, and even—if the two parties still reside in the same home—physical stashes of cash and caches of assets, including jewelry, antiques, investment paperwork, or insurance policies.
Then, armed with information about the other party's unreported income, they can seek to have the child support agreement modified in a way that is more equitable.
Get the Help You Need
Custody arrangements and child support payments are the most daunting, difficult aspects of any divorce. Don't try to go it alone; you need the help of experienced, professional Family Law practitioners.