My friend’s cousin has four kids by three different men. The oldest kid is 9 and the youngest is two. She told me she was looking for a second job because her daughter’s daycare costs were rising, and I asked her if she was getting child support for any of her kids. “Nope. Never have and probably never will,” she replied. After more prodding, I realized that she never even tried. Although each child was a product of a relationship at the time, none of the men know their children today and she’d just let them go, one after the other, without ever soliciting the financial support to raise them.
This perplexed me.
For those of us who pay attention to celebrities, we always hear about these huge child support payments that really sound like “disguised alimony”.
In December 2009, Nas was ordered to pay more than $51,000 per month to his ex-wife, singer Kelis for their son. In February of the same year, Russel Simmons agreed to pay $40,000 per month in child support for his daughters Ming and Aoki with ex-wife Kimora Lee Simmons. Earlier this year, a judge reduced P. Diddy’s $35,000 a month to $19,000 a month in support for his son Justin with ex-girlfriend Misa Hylton-Brim. Actress Salma Hayek’s billionaire husband had a child with a model he says he’d been dating for a mere four months (and had spent as little as seven days with) before she announced she was pregnant. The details of that child support settlement are secret, but rumor has it he’s shelling out 40-grand a month for that child.
In my own experience, after my parents divorced, my dad remained in my life but he also paid child support to my mother for my sister and me. When I was in middle school, my friend’s mom literally gave her daughter the child support check that came in the mail. For so long, I figured that child support is a given, but I’m realizing that it’s not.
Child support is definitely a contentious topic because some parents believe that they’re paying too much or that the money is misappropriated and other parents complain about not getting enough or not getting anything at all.
In fact, when most people think of child support, they think of the supposed tons of men who refuse to pay. Though there are certainly deadbeat dads out there unwilling to support the child they helped create, many women (much like my friend’s cousin) don’t even try to get the help.
62% of custodial mothers do not receive child support. However, of that number, three-fourths of them simply do not want child support, have not asked for it, have accepted other financial arrangements instead of child support, the father is deceased, paternity is unknown, the couple lives together or the father does not have the money. Only 11% of those custodial mothers who do not receive child support, is because of “deadbeat dads
More recently in 2009, the Census Bureau found that 50 percent of custodial parents had either legal or informal child support agreements. 92% of those child support agreements were formal agreements, established in court or through a government agency. 8% were informal child support agreements established between the two parents.
August happens to be Child Support Awareness Month and if you’re taking care of a child (or children) on your own, there are four steps you can take to begin collecting financial support for your child:
1. Talk to the father (or mother) – Communication is key and should always be the first step when possible. You may be able to set up an informal agreement or you may mutually decide to do it through the courts. If communication is not accepted or possible, you can still move forward.
2. Contact your local child support enforcement agency (CSEA) – Child support laws and procedures vary by state, but your local CSEA can at least help point you in the right direction. Make sure you have your child’s information including the SSN and Birth Certificate. (Whether or not both parents signed the birth certificate, you’ll still need it to establish the existence of the child and your relationship to the child.)
3. Get non-custodial parent information – If you have all of the information — name, age, address, place of employment, SSN, DOB, phone number — great! If not, just collect as much as you can and they should be able to get the rest.
4. Be prepared to appear in court – This isn’t always necessary, but it might be in your case. Of course, if going to court would put you in danger, then the department can certainly make adjustments.
The main thing is, try to get child support as soon as possible. The support can’t be applied retroactively, so if you wait until the child is 17 to file, you won’t get back all those years in payments.
If you feel the non-custodial parent can’t pay, it’s still important to file because in the likely event his (or her) fortune changes in the next several years, your child can be financially assisted in the future.
Raising children is expensive (check out this BabyCenter.com calculator for an estimate). We’re talking potentially $235,000 over 17 years expensive, and one parent shouldn’t have to bear the expense alone no matter the circumstances surrounding conception.
If you have a child that you’re taking care of by yourself more power to you! But if you’d like to change that, now is as good a time as ever!
What are your thoughts on child support? Are you surprised there is a month dedicated to it?
Follow Alissa on Twitter @AlissaInPink
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