What happens when someone falls behind in child support? Remember that child support is only a baseline. All those other additional expenses that come along with raising a child can really pile up so Matthew Brickman and Sydney Mitchell discuss solutions to handle arrearages and how they are negotiated among two parties in Mediation Agreements for Child Support, Divorce & Paternity.
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Matthew Brickman is a Florida Supreme Court certified family and appellate mediator who has worked in the 15th and 19th Judicial Circuit Courts since 2009 and 2006 respectively. But what makes him qualified to speak on the subject of conflict resolution is his own personal experience with divorce.
Hi, my name is Sydney Mitchell. Hi, I'm Matthew Brickman, Florida Supreme court mediator. Welcome to the Mediate This! Podcast where we discuss everything mediation and conflict resolution.Matthew Brickman:
So now we get to your question that you had in the previous episode about what is arrearage and how do we, how do we deal with that? So going back to , um, the example that I gave you for my, my ex wife, where she had $33,000 in arrearages. Right. So how that's done it's it's and so we have to name it in here. Um, what it is, is it retroactive child support or is it previously ordered on pay child support? So, so mine would have been previously ordered because child support was already established as previously ordered. Um , retroactive is different, so we put it. Okay. How much is it? So for example, and I'll give you an example. When we first started, like I said, it was like $500 , um, when she was first delinquent, once it gets, you know, and , and of course you're like 33,000 who's , you know, if she didn't have $500 a month, how she had 33,000 to then pay for retroactive child support. Right. I mean, it's just logically, like, how do you do that? So we talk about how much it is, and sometimes we have to calculate it. Sometimes the parties come in with a printout from the department of revenue, with a court report that actually states it because they've been paying or DOR department of revenue has already been on the case and already has established the child support. Now we're updating our model. Yeah . Well, that'sSydney Mitchell:
Another great way that parties can prepare.Matthew Brickman:
Yeah. So we might have that already. Um, but sometimes we have to calculate it. Um, and I'll come back to the example with my ex, but I'll give you another example. I had recently , uh, in a mediation where , um, the parties were separated for six months, right? Then, then there was the data filing . Now they're in mediation with me. So what we had to do, and during that six month period, the mom just disappeared. Dad had the child, mom absolutely just totally disappeared off the planet. Nobody knew where she was, was an exercise in timesharing up. And now she's back asking for 50, 50 , um, finally get around to getting all the parameters for the parents and plan for that to happen. But she has a child support obligation. Usually it's in a divorce it's to , uh , generally it's the data filing . Um, but you know, in a fraternity it can go two years prior to the date of filing , but not if the parties were living together and sort of acting as a family because of course whoever's paying child support was obviously supporting the child and taking care of the child. Right? So, so what we did was we had to say, okay, when you were gone for those six months, this is what the child support. You know, if, if you guys had filed them, this is what the child support was due and owing. Then you guys fine. You, you know, now, now you've had some time sharing , maybe it was a 60, 40, and now we're going to 50 50. So we would run what happened in those, in those first number of months with no overnights, then we would run a new number from the time that she showed up until now to figure out what the child support should have been with the overnights. And then we run a prospect and child support about what's it going to be? If you're going to do 50, 50, that's nothing we create the retroactive child support or previously ordered on pay child support to figure out the rearage , which is that word you, you asked about, you know , what is it a rearage mean? We would figure that out now, how do you pay this back? So we then say, okay, the total in child support arrearage shall be repaid at the rate of either weekly, biweekly , monthly semi-monthly , um , or monthly. However, and so generally, generally what happens is this is , um , the courts generally do either 5, 10, 15, 20 twenty-five or 30. I mean, it's a pretty big range, right. But, but I've seen what I have seen through the years of, you know, the over a decade I've been doing, this is generally it's about 10 to 15% of the prospective child support. So what that means is that let's, let's go back to what my ex , so my ex owed $33,000. Okay. There's no way that my ex has $33,000 sitting around. If she did , she wouldn't have an arrearage, she would have paid, right? So she's got 33,000. Now her child support obligation is $500 a month. So let's just say that on the low end, 15% of 500 is $75. Right? So that means that for $33,000, she would owe her $500 child support. And she's going to pay back the 33,000 at the rate of $75. That'll take forever, right? No kidding . I'm sitting here doing the math. Yeah, yeah. Now, now sometimes what we'll do is let's say for example, that it's $500 a month. And let's say that she let's say that she had a year of pain, still the $500 a month. Let's say that she started to pay the $500 a month and she to pay the $75 a month in a resurgence . Right. Well then she's paying 5 75 for 12 months, but then when my son emancipates and then the child support would then technically disappear. No, she would continue to pay the 5 75. But now all of that goes towards paying off that $33,000 rearage. Now this is optional. Um, so you know, if it's going through the department of revenue, it's not optional, but depends on how they're paying child support. Depends. If we include statutory interest on the arrearages, if it's going through the state, if there's interest on it. Absolutely. Um, if they're paying direct it's, then it's , it's way too complicated to try to figure out what is compound statutory interest on monies that are sitting there , right? The state can figure out no , they may even have a calculator to figure out what you built into their program for child support. Um, but that's option. And then we, we do note, this amount is in addition to the ongoing child, support is set forth in the agreement. So you got your child support. So just to wrap up child support, and then we're going to finish up with how do you pay child support? So child support, you've got your baseline child support. And then in addition to that, there's daycare, aftercare, and summer care. There is the beginning of the year school uniforms and school supplies. The mutually agreed upon extracurricular activities, uniforms, and equipment, any reasonable or necessary uninsured unreimbursed . And you got all your medical stuff and all of that then talks about, okay, here is your child support, right? So then how do you pay child support? So there's three different ways to do it. Um, the first way is what they call an IDW. Oh, some jurisdictions call it an I D O and that stands for IWS stands for income withholding order idea stands for income deduction order. What that means is once we figure out what the base child support, and if there's a, rearages, what that number is, then the attorneys will fill out the form for the Iwo or the IDEO . And that gets submitted to the payer , whether that's a husband or the wife or the mother, the father whoever's paying child support that gets submitted to their employer. And then it's automatically deducted from their paycheck. And so it comes out of their paycheck. It gets processed through the department of revenue. And then, then the department of revenue, then we'll then give it to the receiver. Okay. Um, so the problem with that is if you are self-employed, you can't do an Iwo or an IDEO because what are you going to do here and do it on yourself now? Right? So that's fine. If you're not self-employed, if you are self-employed, then that doesn't work. The other problem with that, is there a delays? Because I, you know, if , if dad was paying mom direct, he'd get his pay. He pay her and she'd have the money. The being that is being processed in the state, it's got to go through the payroll, then it's gotta be sent to Tallahassee and Florida. It's got to be sent in Tallahassee. And then guess what, with all the people, hundreds of thousands or millions of people paying child support all into one central repository, you know, that the state is going to hold that money and collect the compound interest on all those dollars, as long as they are legally allowed. Right. So dad could pay. And I ran into this many , a times where my ex would pay at times when she was paying som she would pay and I'd be like, I don't have it . I still don't have it. I still don't have it. She's like, well, I, I, I paid it and I would log onto my account and I'd say, yeah, she actually did. And they're just sitting it . And I'm like, where's my money. I'm raising these kids. I need this money. Right. And so, and then they would release it. And again, you know , it's 20, 21. Uh, my kids are emancipated. But when I, when , when I, at the time, when I did it, and what I have heard from people now is, is most everything. These days is electronic. So that does help speed things up a little bit. Whereas it wasn't when I was going through this, but even with , with, okay, how does mom get it? So how I used to get , I used to get a check in the mail, so Tallahassee would get it. They'd sit on. As long as I could, then they'd cut a check, put it in the mail and eventually I'd get. Then they came out with, once my kids were like teenagers, they had a child support credit card or debit cards, our debit card, where they would just transfer it to the debit card. I get an email saying, okay, it's been replenished, you've got $500 sitting here . Right. Which was really nice. They will also do direct deposit, which is good too. You don't have the other debit card. It just gets directly to , to your bank. Um, so that definitely does help, but here's the other problem. There is a processing fee. Every time that they do these transactions, it's either a $5 and 25 cents or 4.2, 5% or something. And , um , and so, and , and whoever's paying child support has to pay that fee. So let's say for example, that my ex was paying me $500 a month. And this actually happened, she would pay me $500, but I wouldn't get $5 . They w they would deduct the $5 25 cent processing fee. Well, I'm not supposed to pay the processing fee. She's supposed to be the one doing that. So guess what we had compound arrearages for processing fees . Oh, yeah. Creates just a whole nother, a whole nother issue. And so she's like, no, I've been on, I've been paying my child support in full. Yeah. You pay the child support for not processing. You owe now another $300 then compound processing.Sydney Mitchell:
Yeah. Cause you said a pay at $505.Matthew Brickman:
Right ? Correct. And so, yeah, so, you know, I mean, again, Sydney , you know, as a mediator, my job is to try to help these people get out of the judicial system, guide them through this process and help them not set them up for more problems. Right . Right. So that leads us into the second way of doing this. The second way of doing this is the payer doesn't do that . So they don't do the Iwo or the IDEO , but let's say again , um , and , and in a situation where dad would then get his money, he , he would get his paycheck. It doesn't come out of his paycheck. And then he would set late log on and do a transfer to department of revenue, still going through the states , still processing, still having to pay a processing fee. But it's not automatically coming out of his check is look. Some people, they just don't want the stigma. I don't, I don't know why there's still a stigma. I mean, good . Golly. It's been decades. We've been doing time sharing . And 70% of the kids are on time-sharing plans. Anyways, what stigma are you afraid of? The people have their issues and their pride issues and whatnot. And so I don't want this to be a line item on my paycheck. I'll just pay direct fi so he'll just log onto the account. Pay direct, still has to pay the processing fee. Still has the delay mom's to finally gets her money, but at least they're not doing their own accounting and clogging up the court going, you didn't pay me the processing fee. And I got statutory interest and which is just a night . The court doesn't want that at all. And look, you and may as taxpayers who are funding the court, you know, we have to pay for the judges and the Bayliss and the lights and all that . I don't want my tax dollars to be wasted on stupid stuff like that. That could actually be taken care of by the parties, paying their own way and creating an agreement that keeps them out of court. That's my idea, right?Sydney Mitchell:
No, that makes total sense. I'm on board with you on that one.Matthew Brickman:
Right ? So that leads us to the third way to do it. Child support payments shall be paid directly from the father to the mother via bank to bank transfer. What we do is we cut out the processing fee, the , the delays, all of that, we get the parties Mo you know, mom or dad, whoever's receiving the child's work, gets their money faster, and whoever's paying it. Doesn't have to pay the processing fees or get the phone calls going. Did you pay your child support? I still don't have any , I paid it last week. Well , I don't have it. You know, that , you know, the harassing phone calls, where's my money right now with the creation things like Zelle pay , Hey , pal, then , uh, cash app. Um, even apple has, you know, in their wallet. They've got their family and friends, and there's so many different ways to electronically just transfer people money these days, as long as it is an electronic transfer. Great, no check , definitely no cash. Um, no money orders. As long as there is a electronic paper trail, you can print out the receipt and show payment or receipt of it. Great. That's how the court will be like, okay, fine. But we have to have a trigger mechanism in here that says, if so, you know, if on , under the scenario of like, if dad, his mom, if the father is more than five days delinquent, now this is a variable that's changed. Some people say, eh , 30 days, some people say most people say five days. Some people say 14 days, but generally you don't want this thing to be a runaway train where like mine, where it started at 500 and ended at 33, right? What , $500 and $33,000. So if the father is more than five days, delinquent and pain , his support obligation . So we let everybody take control of their life. You know, be people of integrity, do what they say they're going to do. We give them the opportunity to keep the court out of their life. But if more than five days, delinquent at the mother's discretion of the parties might be talking. She may know they'd Hey, look, he, you know, he didn't make as much. He was out sick. He had coronavirus didn't work for 14 days, paycheck as low, whatever may give him , uh , this time only fine. So, so at the mother's discretion or the father's discretion, whoever's receiving child support, she will have the right to have the entry of an Iwo or income deduction order . And if the mother should desire to have that intro , then we put in here that it's already done. The father shall not object to the, of the order. He can't refute it. Right. Because what was happening prior to having this language in there, Sidney was, you know, she was like, I want an iwi . He's like, well, I don't agree to it. Well, then now they're having a hearing, which is constant. The taxpayers, it's just a mess, right? So we, we are proactive, preventative maintenance. So the father shall not object to the entry of the order and shall be a hundred percent responsible for all associated costs for the creation and entry of the order . Because they're the only way to get an idea or Iwo . I can't even do it. I don't even know how to do them . I mean, an attorney has to do them . That means you have to hire an attorney to do it. We'll look, if the parties are going to do it on their own, but whoever is pain is delinquent. Well , then they know, look fine. Now this is to go on through my paycheck and I'm going to have to pay, to have an attorney do it. You know what you'll think twice before missing a payment, you know, there has to be some sort of consequences or repercussions, right? So, so those are the three different ways to then do child support. Now I can see what it was sort of a blank stare. Okay. I'm processingSydney Mitchell:
So much information.Matthew Brickman:
No. So I'm going to throw in one other scenario because we get this. What if the parties say fine, we agree to electronic transfer and they agree. Okay, fine. We have the right to the IWR idea. And what if dad is self-employed well, then you're never going to get an idea or IWF . Right? True. True. So then we have to change it to say, okay, then at that point he has to pay it through Tallahassee, which means DLR is now going to get involved and he's going to have to pay the process. CertainlySydney Mitchell:
Complicates the process. She doesn't get the money as fast.Matthew Brickman:
Yeah. Now, now let me just touch on this pros and cons of having DOR involved in your life. Okay. So DOR stands for the department of revenue. So let's start with reasons why DOR would be good. DOR is good because you don't have to think about it . You don't have to do anything. You just have to sit back and wait. Okay, great. You know, if the path of least resistance, not a problem, also in the event that a rear judges get out of control, department of revenue has power for recouping the money. So for example, when you hear like, oh, they suspended his driver's license, that was not the court that was department of revenue. Oh, they intercepted a tax return. That's department of revenue. Oh. They levy property. So for example, let's say for example, that my ex wife owned a car and she didn't pay her childhood. She didn't, this is why I didn't get it, but she never owned anything or she I'm getting somebody else was on it or somebody else bought it for, and it was just letting her use it like her mom. Um, but if she had actually like owned a car, DOR could go take the car. We could take it to auction, sell it and recoup the money. Wow . Yeah. Um, if you've got a home, you can get a lien placed on a home so that when you finally sell the home, the bank gets their money. And if you get your money before then they get the net pros . So there's power having DOR. Here's the other thing that a lot of people don't understand or know if DOR is involved and you need enforcement of child support, call it DOR attorney, generally they're free. You're not having to hire an attorney to chase child support. I didn't know that. So I spent $20,000 chasing 30,000. How did I do, right. So there are some pluses having DOR involved, right? So let's talk about the downside to DOR . So the downside to DLR is, okay, there's a delay in getting your payments . And you know, things are still caught up in the judicial system and there's the processing fees. And once DOR is involved, depending on the jurisdiction, I'll give you an example between Palm beach county and Broward county Palm beach county. If I get a mediation where DOR is already involved, we have the power and authority in this jurisdiction to modify the child support and DOR we'll just sign off on it. They don't have to be a party to the action. They don't feel , they are like fine mediator. You're going to take care of it. We'll sign off. Right? When I go down to Broward county, though, it's different. We can't touch child support. If DOR is involved, we can't touch it. Only. They can touch it well for the parties that adds frustration, more money delays , um, and whatnot. So, you know, they're , you know, it they've, they've got their place. Now here's the thing let's say, for example, that you have somebody that just refuses to pay and you, you see it that you're always going to be back in , back in court because you just can't say like, they just are not trustworthy. They're not honorable. They're not doing the right thing. They're not paying their support. I think, well then you know what? Yeah, you'll probably just want to have DOR, you know, and , and suck it up with whatever with, with the fees and the delays. And it is what it is. And, you know, whatnot . Most people want mediators out of their lives. They want therapists out of their life. They want guardian ad litems out of their life. They want attorneys out of their life. They want the judges out of their life and they want DOR out of it . You know, they, they they're like, look, you know, you may not have been the best wife or you may not have been the best husband. Doesn't mean you're not a great father, but you know what, let's, let's come together and let's try to then figure this piece out. Um, so , um, so yeah, so that's how then child support is paid. And then, you know, there's a lot of moving parts, as you say,Sydney Mitchell:
Absolutely. I mean, there are so many ins and outs to all of this that never would have occurred to me, you know, and I'm, you know, of course I'm not a parent and I'm not going through a divorce, but a lot of these things are so key that we're talking through. So that, you know, as I've been saying, parties can be extremely prepared, knowing numbers, knowing documentation, maybe having made some internal decisions about some things that they can then bring to the table and make their time efficient because mediators are, I mean, I know that you're paid by the hour . Is that the case for all mediators? Okay. So, so the last time you can spend negotiating these things the better. Um, so I'm really glad to have to have talked through all of this, and gosh, I love your stories and examples that paints a picture so well, that makes so much sense and hopefully gives our party some understanding as to kind of what they're walking into , um, in this case, as they're approaching , uh , a paternity agreement.Matthew Brickman:
And, and as we were talking to Sydney , you know, regardless if this is a paternity agreement or a divorce, this section is, is, is, is all the same, you know, as long as there's kids, you know , uh , I had mediation , uh, the other day or, you know , yesterday , um, where they had no kids. Okay, great. This entire section is gone. We're just dealing with equitable distribution, alimony attorney's fees, not even deal with the parenting plan and child support. And so that's, that's where we're going to now be going. And the next couple of episodes is we're going to move into, okay. So what outside of the child issues, is there anything else that they need to know about a paternity agreement and we'll address that. And then we're going to talk about all the ins and outs of what, you know, when it , when it comes to a divorce with, or without kids, what's everything else look like, and we're going to deal with that in some future episodes. So that should be fun , right?Sydney Mitchell:
Yes. Looking forward to it. I'm, I'm downloading all this information as I'm sure our listeners are. And , ooking forward to the next conversation with you,Matthew Brickman:
Sidney and I will be releasing Q and a bonus episodes where we will answer questions and give you a personal shopper.Sydney Mitchell:
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