In most cases, preparing for your child support hearing is fairly straightforward. Remember, child support is based on only a few factors: your income, the other parent’s income, and how many overnights each of you has with the children. There are some cases where other things come into play (notably, where travel costs to visit a child are extraordinary because the parents live on opposite sides of the country, or where a child has extraordinary medical expenses not covered by insurance), but these are fairly rare.
Presumably, you will have been to a case manager’s conference before your are scheduled for you child support hearing. In that case, you’ve already filled out the financial affidavits, form 813A and 813B. You did fill those out, right?
Materials Needed for Your Child Support Hearing
Before you attend the child support hearing, you want to get organized. Here is a list of the materials you will need to bring to the hearing:
Last four pay stubs
Most recent income tax return
Recent utility, rent, property tax, and mortgage statements
Any document you have showing what you pay for health insurance to cover the kids.
Put the documents in that order, and make two copies. You should now have three piles of paper.
If you have any of those documents for the other parent, you should probably include them. Even if the other party isn’t going to do a good job bringing the documents to court, it’s probably in your interest to give the judge an accurate picture of your financial situation.
What Happens at the Child Support Hearing?
When you get to the child support hearing, the judge or magistrate will ask what evidence you want to present. You will be sworn in by the court officer. At this point, you should offer the documents you brought with you into evidence. Say, “Your honor, I would like to put my financial documents in evidence. They are my financial affidavits, my pay stubs, my tax return, my recent bills, and my health insurance plan that covers the kids.”
The judge will ask the other parent if he or she objects. Most of the time, they won’t. And even if they do object, the judge will ask you some questions about what the documents are and ask to see them anyway. Either way, the court officer will give them to the court clerk, who will put stickers on them. Now they are “in evidence” and they will stay with the court file.
Next, you should explain your financial situation using the documents. Start with the income page of form 813A. Tell the judge how much you make, and then point the judge to your paychecks and tax return. These should all pretty much agree. If they don’t (perhaps because you changed jobs), explain why as best as you can.
Move to the expense part of the 813A and walk the judge through you major expenses. Do the same for health insurance (or Dr. Dynasaur/Medicaid if your kids are insured through the state of Vermont.)
Obviously, your situation might be a little more complicated. For example, if you own a business or are unemployed, you’ll have to find other ways to show your income.
Finally, you will have a chance to ask the other parent questions about his or her income and expenses. Really, these are the only things in question at the child support hearing. Don’t get caught in the trap of focusing on your relationship with the other parent, or whose fault anything is. This hearing is only about finances, and the judge or magistrate will likely get annoyed if you talk about anything else.
Need help preparing for your Child Support Hearing?
I’d be happy to help. Contact me (802) 747-0610