When Child Support Stops

One day it didn’t come. It just stopped. It wasn’t the first time, but somehow we are never ready for it when the child supports stops.

Surely it was just because of the long weekend. 

It was Labor Day. I’m sure that’s the lag. It will come. 

And sometimes it does, but if you’ve been blessed enough to have the financial support of the other parent for any amount of time, you know the rhythm. And this time, the rhythm said, “It’s not coming.”

No Communicado

Our family is in a unique situation – we deal with two different dads outside of our blended family. And, though you would think that I would have basically chosen the same type of man twice in my efforts to “get it right,” somehow we have completely different experiences with each one when it comes to child support and communicating about it.

In both cases, child support has stopped more than once. And while we are always surprised, in one situation we have an open, authentic line of communication with the dad. You can read between the lines here, I’m sure, when I say in the other situation it is…different.

So in this situation, when child support stops – just stops – we are left to wonder what is going on.

Have you been there?

In the past, I’ve sent the polite “did you know” email, as if he didn’t. But in the situation with this particular dad, we hardly ever get a response. So I gave up. When communication doesn’t happen between the adults, nothing really resolves the mystery except a call to the Office of the Attorney General (OAG), who often knows as much as you do and often will take forever to get to the bottom of it.

We’ve also unwisely tried the “fish around with the kid” method that goes something like: “How is your dad’s job going?” (I don’t recommend that route. Not fair to the poor kid.) But even when you can milk information out of the kid, who now feels terrible about their dad’s potential unemployment, there’s no guarantee when the child support will start again – or if said dad can help out in some way until it does.

So what do you do?

Preparing for the Sudden Stop

When I married my husband, we did a lot of “blended family prep,” for lack of a better description. We read books, took classes, saw a family therapist with and without our kids and had a lot of hard conversations. One of the things that was most troublesome was child support. My husband, who has a hero’s heart to the hilt, was bothered by the role child support played in our finances.

As a single mother, with a single income, and a very, very little bit of child support coming in at the time, I needed every dime sent my way. Our grocery budget was often $20/week, and I would regularly pray to be relieved from a zero bank balance the night before the deposit was made.

But with the blending of our family and the addition of another income, my financial outlook changed. Sure, some things were more expensive – we needed a larger home, for example, but generally, the child support was less…critical. The result?

We budgeted child support right out of our budget. And I recommend you do it, too. {Tweet}

Do we still use the support? Yes. I buy dance shoes and basketballs and sometimes splurge on the kids’ theme park tickets and pay medical bills and stash some away for rainy days – like when child support stops, ahem. But our child support does not pay for the mortgage or groceries or anything living-expense related.  The “sudden stop” is why.

Now, when child support suddenly stops, and we either can’t get any answers or the OAG needs to send out a snail mail letter of one kind or another, we may have to skip the water park and get creative when covering extra-curricular activities, but we don’t starve – or fret, not too much.

And, awfully adultishly, we don’t send anxious emails or bother our kids.

Most importantly, in my opinion, the sweet, heroic husband? He doesn’t get so worked up because, outside our family budget, child support is a fringe issue. A beneficial one, but a blip.

(Note, if you’re a single income parent, I get that this may not totally work for you. You may still be in a season when you need every dime. Keeping a careful eye on your finances and, for you, saving a portion of your child support income is the key to preparing for the sudden stop. You can do it!)

The Other Thing Not To Forget

How to have peace when child support stops.
I know it’s so hard when child support stops, and you feel so lost when no one has answers for you when you just want to take care of your kids. And if your deposits aren’t coming at the beginning of a school year, when things are so expensive all at once (I am so there with you), or it’s just before Christmas when the extra support would be helpful. Old, relational frustrations and anger can come up. Things get tense. It is so overwhelming. I get it. I know it. I live it.

But I want to encourage you.

I’ve done this parenting with child support thing for nearly 14 years and budgeting around it with my blended family for nearly seven, and in most situations, the child support will start again all by itself. In most situations, the OAG figures it all out. Arrears are applied correctly.

Life will rebalance. The kids’ bills will be paid again. New dance shoes and basketballs can happen. {Tweet}

If you are prepared for the sudden stop and can remember all wrongs usually right themselves, you just have to hang in there, momma.

If you enjoyed this encouraging word, consider joining our community of authentic mommas.

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