How to account for other dependents in figuring child support responsibility?
February 23, 2010 9:43 AM   Subscribe

My boyfriend's ex-wife is trying to get him to pay more child support. We got a letter showing how much "available income" she has to support the child; included in the calculation is a deduction for the other two children she has with her new husband. How is this possible, when her new husband--who has a larger income than either the ex-wife or my bf--is also responsible for those other two kids? I understand that the new hubbie is not responsible for the support costs of my bf's son--but shouldn't he be responsible for the care of his own kids, such that the ex-wife cannot deduct this cost from her income when determining the percentage of my bf's son's care for which she is responsible?

This question is too complicated for me to figure out how to google the answer; any suggestions of sites we might go for help would be great. I know, we should consult a lawyer...but we are struggling to survive as is and would prefer to avoid that expense.

I'm also looking for more information on accounting for the expenses a noncustodial parent incurs during visitation--shouldn't his payments be adjusted in accordance with the food, transportation, and other things he buys for his son while the son is staying with us?

The child support letter is from the state of Virginia, although the original order from the court was from the state of Ohio.

I realize that there are a lot of delinquent dads out there and most web sites, free legal help, etc. is accordingly biased against the dad; this is a case where my bf has more than fulfilled his responsibilities (even made payments when he was unemployed; he was unemployed because he left a good job to be near his son when ex-wife decided to relocate) and the ex-wife just won't leave him alone.

Thanks for your help!
posted by vegsister to Law & Government (21 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
I will be the first but not the last to say it.

When a change in child support payment is involved, a lawyer should be, too. Especially for the questions you're asking.
posted by zizzle at 9:46 AM on February 23, 2010 [3 favorites]

Seriously, a family law question involving more than one state? With precious little in the way of concrete facts? On AskMe? You should be contacting a family law attorney, not consulting random strangers on the internet.
posted by valkyryn at 9:47 AM on February 23, 2010 [9 favorites]

The state where the children live has jurisdiction over their care and any court orders pertaining to it. You will not get good information from the internet. Contact an attorney in the county where the children live and go from there.
posted by crush-onastick at 9:50 AM on February 23, 2010 [1 favorite]

Even if there were people here who were 100% sure you were right, there is nothing you can DO about it effectively without a lawyer.
posted by brainmouse at 9:51 AM on February 23, 2010 [3 favorites]

This is way too complicated to do without a lawyer. (Also, FWIW, it does not seem strange to deduct something for her children -- even if her husband is equally responsible for their children, the law may allocate a part of their support from her.) But, seriously, you need to consult with a lawyer. (And I love sef-advocacy.) A lawyer can tell you what is permitted re deducations for her, how much, can help you figure out a fair support figure and/or when to fight. These are monthly payments, so anything higher than you think is justified quickly multiplies, such that spending some now for a lawyer is important.
posted by ClaudiaCenter at 9:59 AM on February 23, 2010

Nthing the need for a lawyer. Check your local law schools to see if they have any clinics - you get free or significantly less expensive help and eager young law students get to learn how to actually practice.

Also, call the bar association of your state to find out if they have a pro bono service that can provide referrals.
posted by Leezie at 10:05 AM on February 23, 2010 [1 favorite]

but we are struggling to survive as is and would prefer to avoid that expense.

Sounds like the other side can afford one. They'll completely fuck you over without one; law can be immune to justice and common sense.
posted by a robot made out of meat at 10:16 AM on February 23, 2010

It seems to me that you can't afford NOT to get a lawyer. Call one ASAP and explain the money situation.
posted by Solomon at 10:32 AM on February 23, 2010

To pile on, you need a lawyer. All my family members and friends who thought they could away with representing themselves against an ex-spouse who had a lawyer ended up paying much more than the lawyer would have cost in the first place.

Their support issues have also lingered for _years_ due to just not doing it right the first time.

It also affected their relationship with their kids due to the resentment over money issues.
posted by bottlebrushtree at 10:35 AM on February 23, 2010 [1 favorite]

As above, you need a lawyer. The tone of your question is asking for a moral judgment, which is entirely besides the point in matters like this.

You also need to be weighing up how much cash you have to do this properly, both in terms of using a lawyer and possibly making an effective assessment of your bf's ex's income.

The other fellow in question may be as rich as Croesus, but if he's not normally salaried he may well be able to disguise or manipulate his income levels.

While it sounds like BS to me - a non lawyer with only a fleeting acquaintance with the facts - it is possible that the engagement of a lawyer from your side might scare the other side away from mucking about. So - either they're trying it on, or they're much better prepared than you for this battle. Either way, a lawyer is the answer.

But it doesn't pay to assume. And from the sounds of it even with the involvement and cost of lawyers they stand more to gain than you (i.e. they could gain something, but you probably won't) so deal with this as rationally as you would someone explaining to you that if you don't lock your windows a thief will steal your TV.

Engage a lawyer, stop thinking about the morality of it all and start thinking about this more tactically.
posted by MuffinMan at 10:48 AM on February 23, 2010

You need a lawyer. This is not somethig for which google has an answer.

Any response other than "speak to a lawyer" is wrong.
posted by dfriedman at 10:55 AM on February 23, 2010

The MeFi Wiki has some advice on how to get a lawyer for low or no cost.
posted by Dojie at 11:12 AM on February 23, 2010 [4 favorites]

it is possible that the engagement of a lawyer from your side might scare the other side away from mucking about.
This, like, a thousand times.

And even if the lawyer doesn't scare them off, child-support laws can be all sorts of crazy-looking, and don't always make sense to us regular folk. The lawyer can also help you put things in place so that this sort of mess doesn't come up again. I think mine cost about $1000, for the entire divorce process--a little negotiation like this likely won't cost that. Money well spent, for sure.
posted by MrMoonPie at 11:28 AM on February 23, 2010

Not only do you need a lawyer, you need to talk to someone who is familiar with the child support laws in Virginia and/or Ohio. Family law varies from state to state, so make sure you ask a lot of questions before you sign a retainer with a particular attorney to represent you.
posted by Mavri at 11:45 AM on February 23, 2010

[this thread is now in MetaTalk. If you are not adding anything other than "lawyer" please reconsider, thank you]
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 11:51 AM on February 23, 2010 [1 favorite]

I have no idea whether this applies where you are, and I've mentioned it before on the green, but in case it's helpful to you:

When we were in a custody dispute with our daughter's birthfather, he was indigent. He was able to get a publicly-funded lawyer by requesting one from the clerk of the court (I think there was a form), which led to a hearing at which his request was approved. He didn't get a great lawyer--I think the court paid her $75/ hour, whereas, for instance, we paid our lawyer $375 an hour.

Anyway, the way this was explained to me is that the state will provide lawyers in family law cases to parties who can't otherwise afford them, because it perceives itself as having a stake in the child--protecting the best interests of the child.

If you really cannot afford a lawyer, you might look into this. It seemed pretty straightforward for the birthfather.
posted by not that girl at 12:03 PM on February 23, 2010

Hopefully this satisfies jessamyn's caution:

It sounds as though the Virginia child support guidelines allow for something that we here in Iowa call a "Qualified Additional Dependent Deduction." Basically, both parents are entitled to a deduction against their income for other children that they may have. The policy consideration behind this is that although one parent is not financially responsible for subsequent or other children that the other parent may have, children do cost money to raise. Because the guidelines are intended to calculate support based upon reasonably available resources, the QADD is an allowable deduction. FWIW, your BF would be entitled to a QADD deduction if he had other children, too.

Finally, since you mentioned that the original order was from Ohio and BF is now getting letters from VA, you'll need to find a lawyer that is familiar with UIFSA (Uniform Interstate Family Support Act) provisions.

Note: IANYL and IANAVL (not a Virginia lawyer). The specific term of "Qualified Additional Dependent Deduction" may/may not be used under Virginia law - or even permitted by VA statute; I'm just making an educated guess based on what you're describing.

Once again, IANYL and this is not legal advice. Follow the advice of everyone else: get a lawyer who knows child support.
posted by webhund at 12:25 PM on February 23, 2010

I'm just dropping in to note that there's also useful info in the related MetaTalk thread -- see, for example, crush-onastick's post on the usual process of choosing a lawyer. {IsallIguess}.
posted by Tuesday After Lunch at 2:32 PM on February 23, 2010

If you're interested in background and social support, there are advocacy groups for divorced fathers and for non-custodial parents. Wikipedia is a good place to start.
posted by y6t5r4e3w2q1 at 2:34 PM on February 23, 2010

IANAL, but I believe there is a principle enshrined in many or perhaps all state codes that both parents are responsible for the care and support of their children--regardless of whether they are married or divorced. In this case, this means that your BF's ex-wife is equally financially responsible for her children with her current husband. Just because he makes more money than her doesn't mean the law sees him as being the sole parent responsible for the financial burden of the children. She is also on the hook, in the eyes of the law.

To put it another way, why should she be legally responsible for a portion of the costs of the child she shares with your BF, but not a portion of the costs of the two children she shares with her current husband?
posted by drlith at 5:57 PM on February 23, 2010

The point, drlith, is that the ex-wife is claiming all expenses for the care of her other 2 children. Why shouldn't her new husband be responsible for half the costs of caring for those 2 children for the purposes of child support calculation for her other child?
posted by rhiannon at 7:40 PM on February 23, 2010

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