As a non-custodial parent, you may wonder if you have to continue paying child support during summer months, especially if your child is staying with you for an extended time during their vacation. After all, you take on additional expenses when they are with you, and vacations, food, clothing and living expenses can really add up. But it's vital that you continue to make your court-ordered child support payments even when your children stay with you over summer vacation. There are many reasons why.
While laws can differ by state, overall a suspension of support is unlikely. First, visitation is typically calculated into the child support agreement, with the financial obligation adjusted accordingly. In addition, most child support orders are standardized. That means the expenses are calculated and spread out over a year; this allows you to make monthly payments rather than a lump sum. So while you may incur temporary expenses during a summer stay, the custodial parent still has to maintain a permanent residence for your child with all associated expenses, such as housing, utilities, health insurance, etc., year-round. Finally, the court sometimes views expenses during vacation as gifts, so the clothes, food and activity expenses you incur are likely yours to bear.
There are some exceptions, however. Despite a requirement of consistent support, if you are able to reach a reasonable agreement with the custodial parent, the courts will likely honor it. If all parties agree to suspend or reduce payments during summer vacation when the child is in your care, you will want to modify the language in the final support decree to protect yourself. In addition, if an extended visitation was not awarded in the parenting plan, you may be entitled to a reduction in child support. Check with your attorney to determine whether this applies to you and how to proceed to pursue a reduction.
Suspending child support on your own accord is not recommended. Unless you have a court order which allows you to suspend support, your obligation stands. But if you’re struggling to meet your child support obligations, particularly if your financial situation has changed because you've lost a job or for other reasons, you may need to seek a legal change to modify support. Otherwise, your child support obligations will continue to accrue, with interest.
By Sonja Davig, Divorce Attorney La Crosse WI. For a divorce attorney in La Crosse WI, contact her at 608-526-9320.