There are so many posts/articles about financial planning and budgeting on the Internet, it is a surprise to me that I have never seen any that tackle or include child support payments. You would think that with the current divorce rates and people re-marrying and having second families, it would be discussed more. Whether you are the recipient or the payor, child support payments/second families quite often put a strain on your budget for multiple reasons.
I don’t think my situation is unique. This is the second marriage for both my current husband and me. We both have children from previous marriages. Our family budget for many years, included receipt of and payment of, child support payments. More or less, it was a wash. Sort of.
As the sole custodian of my children after my divorce, let me say that the monies I received from my ex-husband, were a drop in the bucket compared to the cost of raising our children. Mainly because my ex was frugal. Who am I kidding? He was cheap. He never once took them for a weekend, let alone a vacation, a meal or to a movie. Like ever. And we have been divorced for over 10 years. He believed that he paid enough money to me to support the children and that I was responsible for anything that included an outlay of money. Once when they were real little, he made them pay for their own meals at McDonald’s. I kid you not.
And if I ever either went on vacation alone with my current husband or did any kind of home renovations, I would hear through the grapevine that he more or less implied that he was funding said expense through his child support payments to me. Yeah. Right. Let me tell you as the mother of 2 boys, his support barely paid their grocery bill let alone the clothing budget because they either wore out or grew out of, their clothes faster than weeds invade my lawn.
Now that my kids are older and have completed school, the support payments are done. But guess what? The kids are still with me. In this economy, it is not unusual to have adult children move back home after school or not move out at all. It’s hard out there. My kids do contribute to our household income, as they should, but it pisses me off that my ex gets to think of only himself and his own needs. He hoards his money and brags about how much money he has in the bank but doesn’t think that he should slip his son’s a few dollars once in awhile? Especially his son with diabetes who spends more on his prescriptions monthly than some people pay for rent.
It could be said that it is my decision to allow them to live with me as adults. It could be said that it is my decision not to downsize my home and thereby make it easy for my children to stay. I get that. I’m not trying to play the martyr. I know I have made choices that have created my living arrangements. And I have discussed with my kids, what will happen when my current husband retires. We will downsize. We will probably move away from this city. They will have to find their way. I have no doubt they will move into homes of their own. They are responsible adults and they will make it. Until then, I’m willing to give them a head start to save and get settled in their careers. With or without my ex’s help.
Through my current husband, I get to see the flip side of child support payments. For someone who is extremely generous, to both his own children and mine, let me say his financial responsibilities are crippling. And the current system, makes it really difficult for him to get ahead.
You see, to be better off, he needs to make more money. But more money this year, will mean higher child support payments next year. Even if his opportunities to work over-time dries up and his income drops next year. His child support comes out regardless of extraneous circumstances, like going on strike, when his income completely evaporates or like the times he has gone on sick leave due to his bipolar, when his income was substantially reduced. There is a balancing act that must be played. You have to always think ahead and how your budget will be effected.
And unlike couples that have stayed together, divorced parents are legally bound to pay for secondary education. There is no discussion of what each parent can afford. At least there wasn’t in my husband’s situation. Both of my husband’s children opted to go away for school. It’s expensive. And when making more money is not an option (see paragraph above), it means having to cut back at home.
Of course we don’t begrudge making sacrifices for our children. It’s what we do as parents. But when retirement is looming, it gets scary. Especially when you are still making child support payments. Budgeting and financial planning for the future becomes extremely important.
I realize our life choices have put us on this financial course. I honestly can say that I am not where I thought I would be financially in midlife but what can you do but keep monitoring, adjusting and planning. We are seeing progress and our financial situation is getting better every year. Which to me means, there is hope for the future and financial stability in retirement.
Which ever end you are on of the child support payment equation, or maybe both like me, it is imperative to make the best of what monies you have. With a combination of cutting expenses, saving and wisely increasing your income, you can improve your financial situation. It is what is is. But it all starts with knowing exactly where you stand (knowing your numbers). Once you are clear on that, you can set goals and plans into action.
Do you have any financial advice or posts for divorced families? Please share them in the comments.