For some families, child support is a straightforward calculation. You plug each parent’s income in the Child Support Guidelines Worksheet, and you get a final figure.
However, where a parent has other children from another relationship, the child support calculation is more complicated. Let’s say Dad pays child support pursuant to court order for child Annie from his prior marriage. He is now divorcing his second wife who is mother to child Brian. In that scenario, the court will deduct Dad’s court-ordered child support for Annie from his gross income and then use the remainder as his new gross income for the calculation for child support for Brian.
Now, let’s imagine that there is no court-ordered child support for Annie. Instead, Dad pays Annie’s mother a voluntary payment. As long as that payment is reasonable, actually being paid, and Annie does not reside with Dad, then the court will still deduct that voluntary child support for Annie from Dad’s gross income before calculating child support for Brian.
Finally, let’s imagine a situation where Dad lives with Annie, so he does not pay child support for her. In that scenario, the court would calculate a hypothetical amount of child support for Annie, pursuant to the Child Support Guidelines, and deduct that hypothetical amount from Dad’s gross income before calculating child support for Brian.
As you can see, these variations get complicated, which is why it’s important to meet with an attorney.
Divorce is a lot of work! In order to get divorced, you and your spouse need to make a complete financial disclosure. Preparing for this can take months.
As soon as you realize you want to get divorced, you should start preparing your documentation. The first step is to make a list of every source of income, piece of real estate, motor vehicle, retirement asset, bank account, investment, and debt that is linked to either you or your spouse.
Next, collect supporting documentation for that item. For example, for a source of income, gather the most recent paystubs and most recent W-2s. For a piece of real estate, gather the deed, the mortgage statements, the most recent appraisal, and statements from any home equity loans. (You ultimately will need several years of statements, but think twice about making any requests that will alert your spouse that you are considering divorce. For now, do your best to gather documentation discreetly.)
Finally, once you’ve copied this documentation and organized your copies in a safe location, comb through the documentation. Are there any mysterious transfers? If so, can you figure out where the money went? Any forensic leads you can give your attorney at the initial consult will be helpful. Also, look for patterns. Does your spouse spend a lot of money on online poker? Again, these observations may be useful in your divorce proceeding.
Ultimately, your divorce attorney will give you final instructions on document preparation. The more financial documentation you provide to your divorce attorney upfront, the better prepared she will be and the less she will charge you during the discovery stage of your divorce.