If you have time on your hands, seize the opportunity to catch up on those “to do’s” needing wrap up after your child support or alimony case. Check out these tips to see if any apply to your support order or agreement.
Tip 1: Timing
Confirm & calendar:
· Due dates for payments.
· Termination events & dates of final payments.
· When paying child support for multiple children in the same court order, a date to look into whether to file to modify child support when older children reach the age of majority and age out (because child support does not automatically reduce).
· A date by which to file to terminate support due to terminating events, if being paid through an earnings withholding order, because withholding does not necessarily automatically stop.
Tip 2: Termination
While repetitive, the only ones tracking support termination events are you and the other parent or your ex-spouse. Know which events terminate support and when. Understand what is required of you and the other parent or your ex-spouse to terminate. Then track, calendar, and follow up.
Why? Would you rather support terminate when planned? Or, chase reimbursement of overpayments (which may or may not be reimbursable)?
Tip 3: Changes in Circumstance
No child support order is written in stone. Changes may occur to parents’ income or children’s expenses. If material, these could justify a modification or change in child support. Per current law, a court can only modify child support dating back to the date of filing with the court. Delay can be costly.
Also, alimony may be modifiable. Either due to material financial changes or only due to certain circumstances stated in your agreement. Be sure to understand if alimony is modifiable in your case and when/why. Know what is required of you if modifying circumstances occur, to avoid unintended financial consequences.
Please see Tip 9 about Future Disputes below, which may come into play.
Tip 4: Children’s Expenses
Sometimes certain expenses are paid outside of child support, usually varying or foreseeably terminating expenses. If so:
· Review your order or agreement.
· Understand the reconciliation & reimbursement process, documents required, and timing.
· Calendar dates.
Then follow it if you don’t want to risk potential forfeiture of the right to reimbursement.
If monthly child support includes varying or foreseeably terminating expenses:
· Identify the expenses & amounts.
· Review these at least yearly for changes.
· If changes occur, consult with a professional for cost/benefit of a modification of child support.
Tip 5: Life Insurance
Does your agreement require life insurance for the benefit of children or an ex-spouse? If so, identify requirements, deadlines, calendar & follow up. If forgotten, the financial consequences & future headaches can be significant.
If life insurance is not required and you haven’t already, update your life insurance beneficiaries.
Tip 6: Exchanging Documents
If your agreement or order requires exchange of documents, to ensure follow through: Identify which documents, when & calendar due dates.
Tip 7: Recalculation
If your agreement requires automatic recalculation of support:
· Seek professional advice about what is expected of you, what the process involves & how to formalize any recalculation.
· Identify tasks & calendar.
· Identify professionals to assist with the recalculation (such as mediator, attorney, or accountant), because this often cannot be done without their help.
Tip 8: Taxes
Consult with an accountant or tax preparer about what your court order or agreement requires tax-wise and any withholding adjustments that may be appropriate because of changes in your filing status. This may involve claiming children, required IRS documents, and questions about deductibility.
Tip 9: Future Disputes
Is there a process for resolving future disagreements or disputes in your order or agreement? Take a look. Look for things like notice (especially written notice of breach) & mediation. During conflict it can be difficult to remember that there may be a required resolution process. Plus, it may be required before filing in court.
In the immediate relief that often follows the end of negotiation, mediation, or litigation, it’s tempting to put your documents in a drawer and move on. Moving on also means wrapping up.
If questions about what follow up is needed, consult with an appropriate professional, whether an attorney or accountant.
Since 2002, Lindsay Parvis has represented clients in Maryland custody, divorce, and marital matters. She negotiates, litigates, and advocates for the best interests of her clients, whether in contested litigation, uncontested settlement, or premarital and other agreements. Her clients are not only spouses and parents, but also children whose interests she is appointed by the court to represent in contested custody litigation. Lindsay strives to improve Maryland law in the General Assembly, volunteering her time to monitor, advocate, and educate about legislative developments in family law.