Child support determination is made by necessity and not always by the wants.
By PK Jordan
Necessity vs. Wants
You have decided to move forward with a divorce. You are probably feeling overwhelmed right about now. Yes, your circumstance will change, but it is “how you deal with these changes moving forward” which will determine your outcome.
Now you will be faced with making decisions for yourself and for your family. You then wonder “How am I going to make it financially on my own?” Whew that is a lot! I am going to high light some things for you to consider. These suggestions are for anyone going through a divorce.
A budget needs to be created. I mean, a realistic budget to cover your needs and NOT your wants. I know that it’s hard to hear these words, but trust me you need to hear it. I am only sharing what I know to be true. I had to make a lot of financial adjustments during my divorce many years ago.
Child support is by design to help with the expenses for the children such as: food, shelter, clothing, day to day care, school supplies, child care services, over the counter medicines, educational needs (therapies, private school) and other expenses that arise with your children. Child support is to be viewed as “money for the children.”
Here are some helpful guidelines in determining your budget.
Housing is not to replace what you had in the past. It is not the home that matters, it’s whether the children live in a “loving home.” Smaller is better. What I have found is that larger homes can create a disconnect. Why pay for extra square footage that is used very little? Children want to be around where the family hangs out. During a time of transition, it is important for the family unit to have one central meeting place – the family room. Moving from a large home to a smaller home brought our family closer together. Don’t forget there is a lot less to clean.
Electric usage during off peak
The electric bill can be a killer depending on where you live. Your electric bill can be managed by using it on off peak hours vs. on peak. Call your utility company and ask if they have a budget program where you pay the same rate monthly to allow for those high electric bills. Share these changes with your family, this is a great way for you to teach your kids about managing family household expenses. This can prepare your children for early adulthood.
Before you move into a new location, it would be a good idea to call all of the utility companies such as: water, garbage, electric, gas, etc. The utility company will need the address so that they can determine the average, low and high bills. This will help you make a sound decision with the facts. If the bills are too high, then move on to another property.
Many families have many different practices. There are some families that hardly eat out and then there are those that are frequent consumers of dining out. Often times dining out is more convenient due to sports practices for example. If you have a high dining bill, you will most likely need to consider cutting back in other areas of your budget – so that you can accommodate your frequent dining.
Have a family meeting with the children. Ask the children for their help. Let them know you are making a budget. Ask them what is important: school lunches or eating out? The children will provide input. You can provide a quality meal for less than the cost of school lunch. Dining out is a treat and not a requirement 7 days a week.
Children can be a lot more flexible. Allow them to be a part of the process rather than assuming what your kids want. Your kids will surprise you. Getting the Food/dining bill under control will be very helpful to your budget.
Courts will work with you
The court wants to see a reasonable budget so that they can allocate a child support that is appropriate for your family. If your budget numbers are focused on the “wants” the Judge will see right through it and you may receive an unfavorable child support payment. Keep in mind during the first year, adjustments need to be made so that you can truly measure your expenses.
These suggestions are just that, suggestions. I would recommend committing to a budget for one year. You will find that when you manage your expenses, you will find extra money in your budget. Every time you spend money you will ask yourself “Is this a Need or a Want?” I am not saying to deny yourself a massage or a Starbucks coffee. Give yourself a monthly allowance of $60-80 per month. It’s yours and nobody can tell you how to spend it.
Trust yourself. You have what it takes. Divorce doesn’t have to be scary so long as you have a game plan. If you don’t have a plan, seek help from a trusted friend, financial planner or your accountant.
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(Courtesy of East Valley Mediator 480-788-4187)