TEMPORARY CHILD SUPPORT ORDER
The Temporary Child Support Order tells you how much child support you will either pay or receive until the divorce is final. Hopefully, the divorce won’t take a long time! It also deals with how your children will be covered by health insurance during this period.
Not surprisingly, the Temporary Child Support Order is eventually followed by a Final Child Support Order. That just means it is permanent until changed. And the child support order can be changed at any time there is a "real, substantial, and unanticipated change of circumstances" that affects one parent's finances significantly. That change is usually a change in the overnight schedule, or one parent's income.
Most of the time, you will be able to reach an agreement on temporary child support, and the magistrate will sign off on your agreement. This will then become the temporary child support order. The real questions that you need to figure out before you can agree on this though, is temporary physical responsibilities. What does this mean? Where are the children going to spend their overnights. If you and the other parent can agree on this, temporary child support should be pretty easy.
What happens at the Case Manager's Conference?
The best place to agree on temporary child support is at the case manager’s conference. If you both bring your financial information to this conference, and you don’t have a disagreement about what your incomes actually are, the case manager can tell you what the child support guideline amount will be. You can agree to this in almost every case.
One issue that often comes up is that you and the other parent have an agreement on temporary child support that is different from the guideline amounts. For example, you agree that at least for the time being, one parent is going to pay the mortgage on the house that the other parent lives in. Often, there’s just not enough money to do everything, and this is a reasonable arrangement. But it isn’t the arrangement that the child support guidelines support. Is there anything you can do about this? Maybe. If you both agree that this is reasonable, ask the case manager to help you. Often the case manager knows what the magistrate looks for, and can put some extra explanation into the temporary order so the magistrate will sign it without having a hearing.
Remember, the magistrate’s job is to make sure the kids have what they need, not to make things convenient for you. So you’ll need to convince the magistrate – or judge – that your agreement really is best for the kids.
How does the temporary order affect the final order?
People often ask me whether the temporary child support order will affect the final child support order. If we agree on child support now, is it more likely that the judge will order the same child support in the final order? Not really. What actually happens, usually, is that it turns out that your temporary agreement on custody and child support works out pretty well for everybody. Months later, when it’s time for a final order, everyone agrees that what they’ve been doing works pretty well. Which makes sense, since you put a lot of thought into it and agreed on it already! So, more often than not your final order will look just like your temporary order, even if you really thought the agreement was going to be temporary. Which is a good thing!
What if the temporary order isn’t working?
What if you have a life change, like losing a job, or moving to a new place, or being temporarily disabled, while the temporary order is in place? You can ask the magistrate to change the temporary child support order. Anytime there is a real change in circumstances, until your youngest child turns 18, you can always ask the court to change your order. The way to do this is by filing a Motion to Modify Child Support.
Finally, can you change the temporary child support order by agreement without going back to court? No. Nope. If you are paying child support, even if the other parent tells you to pay less, you will still owe that child support (and penalties and interest!) until the court gives you a new order signed by a judge or magistrate. Be careful of this!
Back Child Support (Arrears)
If you or the other parent owe back child support, am amount per month will be added to the child support amount until the paying parent catches up. This might be because there hasn't been a child support order yet. In that case, the magistrate will calculate how much support would have been paid from the date of filing documents in court until the date of the hearing. Other times, a parent has failed to pay support that was already ordered in a earlier child support order.