Child support payments are some of the most controversial issues unmarried parents have to deal with. It's not because they don't want to take care of their kids, but because legal issues on child support tend to be complicated. For that reason, read these three things to educate yourself more on child support issues:  

The Meaning of Income Is Extremely Expansive

You probably know that your income is one of the fundamental factors the court will use to determine the amount of child support you should pay. What you may not know is that the meaning of "income" here is more expansive than what you are used to; it isn't restricted to your salary and side incomes. Among other things, income here also includes:

  • Gifts
  • Education grants
  • Income of a new spouse
  • Alimony from another former spouse
  • Social security benefits

In fact, the definition is so broad that, at times, it may include income that only appears on paper, but doesn't reflect in your bank account. A good example of such unrealized income is money in Individual Retirement Accounts. States have different laws for dealing with such income; if unrealized income has been used in the computation of your child support payments, it's up to you to get the court to disregard it.

Modifications Aren't Automatic

Secondly, you should know that child support modification isn't automatic; you must make a court filing and convince the court of its necessity. You need to do this even if you have valid grounds for child support modification, such as loss of earnings or sudden disability. Don't assume that the court will understand that you weren't making your child support payments because you were sick; do that and you will find yourself with a backlog of child support payments to make.

Payment Modifications Aren't Retroactive

Another thing you should know is that when child support modifications are made, they become active from that point onwards. That is, if you succeed in modifying child support today, it's valid for today henceforth. This is the case even if the factor that triggered the modification emanated a few months ago. For example, losing a job is a valid ground for seeking child support modifications. However, if you wait three months (after losing a job) before seeking a modification, you will still be required to pay the unmodified payments for those three months. This underscores the need for seeking a modification as soon as you are convinced you can't afford the stipulated amount.

Talk to a child support and divorce law attorney right away to help you with your child support case.