After 12 years of marriage, my husband and I separated. We get along well so we decided to represent ourselves. In August, he moved to Rhode Island to take his dream teaching job. Our daughters stayed with me and only see him two weekends per month. I earn significantly more than him so I can afford to cover their needs. Given our incomes, I think it makes sense for him to pay no child support and instead to apply his salary against my income over $250,000 to figure out alimony.
My husband is worried a judge would not approve no child support because our girls are only 10. Can you tell me how to structure this so a judge will approve of our plan?
Judges do not like agreements where there is no child support because it is not your right to waive, rather your children’s right to be supported. However, there are two ways around the issue. First, you can have the court appoint a special purpose Guardian Ad Litem to investigate the situation and hopefully recommend that a child support waiver is in the best interest of your kids. That is not the route I suggest you go, in this instance there is an easier way.
Where there is an alimony component, you can call it “unallocated support,” which means it’s a combined alimony and child support order. The catch is you need to be careful in the drafting. The durational limit on your alimony obligation will be shorter than the time frame in which your children are entitled to support. Your agreement should include a plan for college. I suggest you have the unallocated support end upon the girls’ high school graduation. Then establish a formula for who pays what for college, making college contributions the sole “support” for the kids at that point.
Before you finalize the deal with your husband, you really should run the child support guidelines using the first $250,000 of combined income. See how much he would have to pay you in child support. Then take the difference between your respective incomes over the amount used for the combined $250,000 and apply a middle ground percentage (say 25% now that alimony is not a taxable event). Deduct the amount he would owe in child support from what you would owe in alimony to see if the numbers are close to what you are presently agreeing to pay.
Final tips (1) if you don’t want lawyers, at least hire a lawyer/mediator to draft your agreement so it is done right, (2) file a child support guidelines worksheet even if there is no child support being paid – the judge will want it, and (3) find out if alimony is deductible on R.I. state tax returns – it is in Massachusetts.