Child Support Payment Options

When you're recently divorced or separated with kids, you're probably in the midst of making big decisions. One of these decisions that you're maybe facing is how to best handle child support payments. In many situations, one parent will make child support payments to the other parent in order to help that parent financially support their child. While each state has its own laws regarding child support, many states allow payments to me made between parents via several different methods. Child support payment options include both direct and indirect methods, and it's up to the parents, their professionals, or the court to decide which payment option is most appropriate for each family situation in particular. While your attorney can address your questions and concerns about which child support payment option is the best fit for your situation, here are some details about a few different payment methods.

Direct Child Support Payments

Direct child support payments involve one parent paying the other parent directly on a set schedule. When payment child support directly, there are several options for payment methods:

  • Cash: Making cash payments to your co-parent for child support sounds simple enough: hand over cash to the other parent, and it's done. What cash payments tend to lack is a concrete method of documentation, like a receipt. Without having some kind of hard documentation to prove that a payment was made, problems could arise in the future when you're trying to prove the fact that a particular payment was indeed made. Also, paying your co-parent directly in cash might call for a face-to-face meeting. For co-parents who are prone to hostility, meeting to exchange cash could be difficult. 
  • Check or Money Order: Unlike with cash, people often feel more comfortable sending checks or money orders through the mail. This eliminates the face-to-face payment exchange, but you also run the risk of your check or money order getting lost in the mail or arriving late. On the other hand, checks and money orders leave tangible evidence of payment via bank records, cancelled checks or receipts. This information will help to demonstrate when payments were initiated, but it may be hard to tell when the payment is actually received and deposited by the other parent.
  • Income Withholding or Wage Garnishment: Child support payments made via income withholding or wage garnishments provide a way for funds to be sent from one parent to another on a regular basis, but this is done through the help of a third party. The employer of the paying parent will take a particular amount from their paycheck, and those funds will be sent either from the employer to the other parent or to a state agency who will then send it to the other parent. Income withholding or wage garnishments help to ensure that payments are made in the correct amount and are paid regularly. They also provide a concrete way for parents to document their child support payments. One particular drawback of using income withholding or wage garnishments is that they don't always fit well within every situation, such as in the case where a parent is self-employed or regularly unemployed. 
  • Online Transfers: Transfering funds online is one child support payment option that allows parents to send and receive funds directly between each other without having to meet face-to-face, send funds through the mail, or have wages withheld from paychecks. When making online transfers for child support payments, parents should be sure that the system they are using will keep their information secure. Also, they should make transfers using a service that doesn't require them to share sensitive banking information between each other. One such payment option is OFWpay offered within the OurFamilyWizard website. Using OFWpay, each parent separately registers their banking information, and their accounts are verified as valid. Once approved, a parent can set up secure recurring payments to be sent to the other parent on a regular schedule for a consistent amount. Both parents can monitor the status of each payment sent through the site, from the time it is initiated from the payor to the time it is deposited to the recipient. Individual payment receipts and full payment history reports can be generated by both parents and legal professionals at any time. More than just child support payments, OFWpay allows parents to make one-time payments for other parenting expenses such as unpaid medical costs. 

No matter which option you are using to make direct child support payments, it is important to make sure that you are prepared to make your payments in the correct amount on the correct schedule. Defaulting on child support payments can result in legal penalties that you will not want to run into. If you feel like you are at risk of defaulting on one or more of your payments, speak to your attorney as soon as possible. They can help guide you with how to handle this situation in the most appropriate way. 

Indirect Child Support Payments

Unlike direct child support payments in which are delivered straight to the other parent, indirect child support payments do not often involve sending money to the other parent. Instead, payments are made only to third parties to cover costs that concern the children. This might be school tuition fees, extra-curricular activities, medical and dental care, and other various costs. Since these payments go directly to the agency which they are meant for, you will often have to discuss payment options directly with those third parties. Making indirect child support payments can help the payor to ensure that the funds they allocate for these child-related costs are paid on time instead of relying on the other parent to make the payments. On the other hand, if the other parent unaware that payments are being made on time or if payments aren't being made at all, the other parent is left to bear the burden of late fees and other related issues. Your attorney will have more information about whether indirect child support payment options are a good option for your situation and how to handle them.

There are many child support payment options available for parents to consider, but it is important that you think honestly about which one is the best option for your situation. At times, the court will make this decision for you as part of your parenting agreement, but it is worth looking into all of the viable options in case there is one you are interested in using. This information is not to be considered as legal advice. For legal guidance or other advice that pertains to your situation, speak to an attorney who practices family law in your state.