According to family law, child support is the ongoing and periodic payment made by a non-custodial parent to the custodial parent, for the financial care and benefit of a child upon divorce.
Simply put, child support is an amount of money paid by one parent to the other in order to meet the financial needs of their shared child. The money is intended to cover things such as food, medical care, education, etc. There is a legal requirement for the non-custodial parent, or the parent who does not have majority custody over the child, to provide this financial support.
Non-custodial parents are legally obligated to pay child support, even if they do not want to, and custodial parents are legally obligated to accept those child support payments. Importantly, child support is the right of the child, not the parent. Thus, not wanting to pay child support, or not wanting to receive child support, are not options under the law.
Additionally, non-custodial parents generally do not have any legal rights to make decisions on behalf on the child, which would include making financial decisions. However, there are instances in which a court may allow the parents to avoid the issue of child support temporarily. The reservation of child support is one such instance.
What is a Reservation of Child Support?
Either parent can request a reservation of child support in order to delay a determination of child support amount. Reservation of child support means that the court decided to put off making a decision about child support payments at the present time.
The court does this until the facts of the case change enough to make an informed decision regarding the payment amount and schedule. Essentially, “reserved judgments” mean that the court recognizes there is an issue that must be solved, but will not resolve it at the time of judgment. The issue will later be revisited, most likely when the custody arrangement becomes more clear.
Reservation of child support is ended when either party approaches the court requesting a decision on the issue of child support. The process to repeal a reserve can take some time, and consists of filing a petition and beginning a new legal process.
Additionally, awards cannot be made retroactively; so, you cannot receive child support for the time prior to filing the petition requesting the repeal of a reservation. For these reasons, it is imperative that action is taken well before the issue will become a more complex problem.
Can I Choose to Receive Another Form of Financial Support Instead of Child Support?
A custodial parent may not want to receive child support. There are other forms of financial support they may choose instead. Some examples are:
- A Larger Portion of the Marital Assets: Marital assets refers to a legal concept that is most often involved in divorce and separation cases. Generally, it refers to any property obtained over the course of the marriage, regardless of who may own it or hold the title to it.
- Homes and other real estate, vehicles, as well as stocks and bonds are examples of marital assets. Instead of receiving child support, the custodial parents may request to receive more of these assets;
- A Smaller Portion of the Marital Debts: Marital debt refers to the amount of money owed by two people when they get a divorce. Because of the tendency to have joint finances during marriage, joint debt is assumed as well.
- This primarily include lines of credit, such as auto loans or credit cards. The custodial parent might wish to be less responsible for these debts in lieu of child support, especially if the amount of debt owed is considerable; or
- More Spousal Support or Alimony: Alimony (also referred to as spousal support) is a regular amount of money paid to a spouse during a divorce or separation. It is intended to provide financial assistance to the other spouse until they become self-supporting.
- There are many types of spousal support, including temporary spousal support, permanent alimony, and rehabilitative alimony. Spousal support can be modified or terminated by the court. This might be the best choice for a custodial parent whose own immediate expenses far outweigh those of the child.
Because child support is the right of the child, and because these alternatives to receiving child support are complex, it is best to speak to an attorney before making the decision to take another form of support.
Do I Need an Attorney to Help Me Receive a Reservation of Child Support?
Reserving child support requires a separate process in an already complex and nuanced situation. Further, determining whether to request the reservation of child support, or request another form of financial support in place of it, can seriously impact your parental rights. Reservation of child support is a very important decision that should be made after much education and consideration.
A knowledgeable and qualified child support attorney will ensure you understand your rights, your options, and how the situation will likely proceed. They will help you decide whether to pursue a reservation, and assist you in requesting such a reservation in a manner that will prevent you from losing any parental rights when the reserve is repealed.