Updated: Dec 26, 2019
1. Hire a lawyer. Forget what you have read on the internet or what you may have seen on YouTube. You do not have a law degree. You will have questions and it is reassuring to have someone in your corner with answers and guidance. However, this comes with a nice price tag attached. Any questions you may have, make sure they are direct and concise. You hired a lawyer, not a friend, and they will bill you. Lawyers are, and will always be, the most needed waste of money on the face of the earth. They will, however, be able to communicate with your child’s other parent where conversation tends to breakdown between the two of you. They will also file the needed paperwork and put documents in order which is one less thing you’ll have to worry about. You are hiring peace of mind, which can be priceless. Keep your expectations in check through this process. There won’t be a “the glove doesn’t fit" moment during your hearing.
2. Short Term Financial Memory Loss. Child support laws in this country are not fair. Prior to establishing a parental agreement, the court will decide which parent will pay and the amount, regardless of how much parenting time they have currently. The Judge or Magistrate will ask you how much your gross income is per year. If there was ever a time in your life to not be a mathematician, this is it. Your answer will dictate your child support amount until your next court date where you will present the court your last three years of tax returns. An average of the three years will be taken, and your support amount will be adjusted accordingly. Do not get too crazy with your financial memory lapse, but $15-$20,000 LESS than what you truly gross, will save you some money you will need for diapers.
3. Communication. You will need to prepare yourself both mentally and physically because what you are about to endure is going to test you to the brink of despair. When communicating with your child’s other parent during this time, the tension that may have already existed, is heightened. This, combined with the fact that your relationship with your child lays in the wake of a court’s decision, will only add to your stress level. When communication is called for with the other parent, pretend you are in a group text with the Judge. Do not lose your cool. If they are being unruly, your best response may be no response at all.
4. Change Your Language. Yes, I know, you are perfect. You are right, and they are wrong. Guess what? You still have to deal with all their flaws on an almost seemingly endless basis. This is going to test your patience, but these exercises work. Do not be passive-aggressive when sending a response to them. Also, getting in that allusive dig as the last word is not worth it. This is not your moment where you tell your unappreciative boss what you really think about them as you walk out the door never looking back. This is an 18 year marathon. You would be wise not to sprint out of the gate.
5. Remember You Are Doing the Right Thing. During this process, always remember you are doing the right thing. There will be times when you will question that. In the end, having an official document as a guideline of what is expected from each parent, will seemingly eliminate a lot of the back-and-forth you are experiencing now. Remember, you are doing this for the best interest of your child. As their parent, you will need to endure things they simply can not understand, and that’s okay; that is why they have parents. It is important your child has an equal, and meaningful relationship, with both parents. When you are sitting at the negotiating table, imagine yourself as your child, and what they would want to see in that document. This will check your pettiness at the door.
Here’s to a fair and favorable outcome to all the parents going through this process. I do not envy you, but I will say, it will get better. Hang in there.