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Custodial mother wants to know if she should accept father's offer for child support, or go to court for more


Your Question:
I have asked a question before and I met with my attorney today, he basically just gave me the ex's response to my proposal.

He has offered $300 / month (for both kids) and to leave all the rest as is. So he would continue to pay insurance and Half of ALL child related expenses. My offer had been $650 / month and Physical Custody but I'm sure with that he would not be paying half of their expenses other than medical.

So far the most he has had to pay in one month on half of expenses has been like $100.

On one hand the offer is better than where I am at with nothing and I would not have to go to court where I risk the judge deciding I do not have Substantial Change in Circumstances (which my attorney IS worried about) and end up where I am now. On the other hand $300 plus maybe $150 for insurance (he pays health Ins.) and we'll say $100 in half of expenses a month is $550. If I had Physical Custody he would be paying close to $900 a month under the State Guidelines.

So do I settle???? Do I risk going to court for MAYBE another $600 a month but not have him there to pay half of the costs???

Do I take it and look at it as having my foot in the door because without Physical custody I don't know what would happen if say in 2 years I decide to go back to have it raised? Would I have to fight the Physical Custody issue then anyhow? Will I be at $300 for the next 10 years period?

Or do I just be happy that I have my kids 5 nights a week for now. I guess even if I had Physical Custody "legally written" he could always try to get the kids more overnights down the road?

I'm sure to you I may sound petty, I have my kids so be happy. But any advice would be appriciated.

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My Answer:
Hi,

If you insist on me saying... You have your kids, so be happy.

It's one thing to assess one's living arrangement and needing financial help versus wanting to squeeze every last cent out of an ex-spouse regardless of actual need.

Litigation is a TOOL one uses to seek sort of relief for real world problems. Because it is a TOOL, it means that "real world" thinking must be used to decide to litigate or not. Not all "real world" answers are debated in legal terms, and that's the tone of my response.

I asked you for additional financial information (i.e., what your monthly budget looks like).

Your monthly budget looks like if you had a couple hundred bucks more a month, you could breathe more easily.

You have one expense that I'll call a luxury (i.e., an RV). While I sure enjoy my luxuries, I don't consider them part of my monthly need. So, I'll suggest it's fair to apply the same to you. Get rid of that expense (i.e., for analysis, not suggesting that you have to sell it), and you're pretty balanced per month.

You say that you're being offered a package of $500+ per month from your ex to help you raise the kids five days per week. If parents are equally responsible in raising kids (i.e., a fairness definition, not a legal definition), you should contribute $500 too. So, we're talking $1,000 per month to support two kids. To me, that seems pretty darn adequate for month-to-month living, no?

Now, for your question about physical custody. In real measure, you already have physical custody. To get a court to announce it would be mostly an ego thing for you over anything else-- I mean in terms of changing things for the "real world" future.

Yes, he can petition the court for additional overnights at any time. It doesn't mean that he'll win, but no custody designation would prevent him from attempting it. If he convinces a judge that it's in the kids' best interest, the judge won't care about the label of physical custody. So, if that's your strongest reason, I don't think it holds water.

If I were in your shoes, here's what I would consider. You suggest that he has access to monies that he's hiding via clever accounting on his tax forms. It will cost you thousands in attorney fees to try to convince a court of this, including potentially hiring an expert witness about accounting methods (i.e., you pay money for this witness), etc. Your gain (at most) would be less than $400 per month, and your attorney is already expressing some concern about prevailing. Not good. If you fail in court, you remove any incentive for him to further negotiate with you. If you lose in court, his offer will probably be less than it is now.

On the other hand, right now you have a sure thing that seems like it would put your monthly budget in the black, and it would really ease some immediate financial stress you're having.

All of that said, let's also consider if a horrible emergency occurs with one of the kids. Let's say medical co-pays hit $11,000. Ouch. Based on your budget, you can't handle that kind of hit. Medical emergencies are really the only sort of thing that could financially devastate you like that.

So, think about a counter proposal that you'll accept his offer IF he pays 100% of unreimbursed medical expenses that reach past $5,000 in a calendar year. Meaning, you both split expenses up to $5,000 ($2,500 each), and then he pays everything on top of that. He may be fine with this, since it's not likely ever to happen that medical co-pays exceed $5,000, and he feels like he's ahead of the game on everything else. But to have such a clause is insurance for you that you won't be wiped out if one of the kids has a serious medical emergency or condition.

Or, another direction, think of the future too. Who's preparing for their college? You may want to counter-propose that you'll accept his offer ONLY IF he also puts $200/month into a 529 account to benefit the kids.

You didn't mention who's claiming the kids as dependents. It should be you, since they're in your care for more than 50% of the time. That's IRS code. Don't agree to anything else, unless you get something back.

Bottom line: my thoughts are that his offer gives you immediate relief for your monthly budget, you avoid the expense and uncertainty of litigating, and you may be able to add one more thing that benefits the kids and/or protects you against unforeseen expenses.

Get creative, just like he is. Figure it out. Avoid court.

Eric





This website gives common sense advice that is not intended to act as legal guidance nor psychological guidance. The author is neither an attorney nor licensed psychologist. For specific legal guidance or specific psychological guidance, consult with a licensed professional.


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