I’m dealing with child support payments and it has caused a tremendous amount of stress – how should I deal with it?
“I’m so sick of making money for other people”.
If you’re with someone that is paying for child support, then you will feel for my good friend, Nick. When I first met him, he was in the beginning stages of a nasty divorce. Unfortunately, he’s one of the many good men out there that have been punished by the courts in fighting for equal custody of his children.
Nick’s equal custody in the eyes of the courts amounted to getting his children twice a week during the week plus every other weekend as well as paying over $2,000 per month in child support for his two young kids. He is an incredibly high income-earner, but he is broke.
Nick is a great father and wants nothing less than to spend time with kids and watch them grow up. He will do anything for them, including putting himself near bankruptcy. He’s one of the many men that have written to the Ontario Premier to express the anguish and unequal treatment fathers experience when it comes to custody battles and child support payments.
It’s a broken system.
From the single moms that have been plunged below the poverty line after devoting years to their families, only to be been abandoned by their partners and not receive a dime from them – to the amazing fathers that want no less than to spend all the time with their children but get shafted financially and time-wise.
No doubt will this put a strain on their lives and in new relationships. But it is something that can be adjusted for. Nick did. He had no choice.
How do you deal with a partner that is drowning in child support payments?
It’s tough because child support payments are difficult to change. A commitment was made to bring these children in this world and the courts want to make sure the children’s best interests are looked after, first and foremost. While child support is not meant to destroy people’s financial well-being, it sure feels that way a lot of times.
Remember, it’s not forever. But you must adjust your lifestyle to accommodate for these payments, because they’re not going away. If you can prove significant financial hardship, you can apply to get the payments reduced – this is the extreme case.
Establish a budget
Establish a household budget to see where your money is going and what is left after your fixed payments, including any debt and child support/alimony payments:
- Start with the household after-tax monthly income
- List out what the fixed recurring expenses are each month (e.g. mortgage/rent, line of credit, student loans, alimony, child support, monthly membership fees, insurance, etc.)
- Allocate money towards your financial goals (individual and family), such as retirement, paying off debt, kids’ education, building up an emergency fund, trips, or major purchases (this is where you pay yourself and ensure you are looking after your financial future)
- Determine what is leftover for variable spending, such as food, entertainment, gas, gifts, household purchases – these vary on a week-to-week basis, especially when you have children in and out of the house on any given week. This is the area where you get creative and scale back on expenditures.
For example, if you determined the household has $800 per month for variable spending, then on average you should be spending about $200 per week. However, allocate more money for the weeks your step-kids will be around. If they’re not around the following week, expenditures are scaled back for that week. Let’s say your step-kids are at the house every other week. Then your variable spending allocations for the month may look something like this:
Week 1 with kids: $220
Week 2 no kids: $180
Week 3 with kids: $220
Week 4 no kids: $180
For the spouse that is not making child support or alimony payments, you can offer to pick up more of the household bills – this is a conversation you must have with your partner because you don’t want to build up resentment nor do you want to watch your partner suffer. Do what feels right for you and your partner.
Put that budget into action!
Create a list of your favourite activities, and then challenge yourselves to do it in the lowest budget possible. If you and your partner enjoy food, cook together and source your ingredients in low-cost stores. This may require time and research on your part – but that is the trade-off. Maybe it involves buying plants to grow some of your ingredients (gardening is therapeutic!), but here’s a chance to be creative and enjoy the little things. Make everything, from DIY Christmas gifts to DIY organizers and decor in your household. Shop at thrift stores – they have a lot of hidden gems. Sell things that you don’t need. Get your children involved and make family activities out of it.
Simplify your life but fill it with love, experiences, and gratitude – no amount of money in this world can buy this.