What if you don’t get child support? How can you budget and live?
Child support is great in theory, both parents contributing to the costs of raising their child. Yet, a question that comes up time and time again, is what to do if child support isn’t being paid or how to budget without it?
If you are relying on Centrelink, such as the single parents pension, they take into account the amount of child support you should be paid and adjust your pension accordingly. This can cause a massive headache for people entitled to child support but don’t actually get the money.
“Just get the child support agency to make them pay it!”
I hear this a lot from people who have never dealt with the system. Technically, child support will continue to accrue and at some point you will be paid. It might not be until the person who is supposed to pay does their tax, ends up on a pension, retires or worse.
How child support works
The parents split and care for the children is decided. In some cases it’s 50/50, in others one parent has 100% care of the child/children.
Centrelink and the Child Support Agency (CSA) will determine how much child support should be paid and who to based on percentage of care and income levels. You then have the option of a private arrangement or have the child support agency collect it for you.
If the person paying child support agrees, the CSA can arrange to have it taken from their account or they set up a way for child support to be paid.
If they refuse and don’t pay, CSA can track them down and garnish wages. It is quite a process to get to that point.
Where child support falls short
If they refuse to pay, if they work cash in hand jobs or if they change jobs as soon as CSA tracks them down each time, you are going to be left without child support. The child support debt will continue to accrue, however, that doesn’t help you right now.
At times, such as if they lodge a tax return, their tax return will come to you in the form of child support. If they end up on the pension, they can be made to back pay child support. If you find out where they work and CSA can verify this, they will garnish their wages.
Basically, there are numerous loopholes and while it will technically get paid at some point, it’s not a reliable source of income for most people.
How can you budget and survive without child support?
As nice as it would be for everyone to get child support consistently, not getting it makes you more self-reliant and you have to change your mindset, look after yourself and your kids and ultimately, the buck stops with you, so you learn quickly what you are made of.
1.) Change your mindset
Child Support is a bonus, not a wage. Instead of viewing child support as guaranteed income, view it as bonus money. When it comes in, use it to pay off debt, get ahead on bills, take a holiday or put into savings for your childrens education or first car, anything like that which might be expensive. Let go of the need for ‘them to pay’ and instead focus on what you can do to support yourself and your kids. Say it with me, “Child support is a bonus.”
2.) Know your income and expenses
Like any budget, it comes down to spending less than you earn. Write down all forms of income (excluding child support), then list all your expenses. If your expenses are higher than your income, you need to look at how you can cut back and look at ways to make more money.
Go over every expense such as accommodation (rent/mortgage/board), food, petrol, car maintenance, insurance (health, car, house etc), clothing, birthdays, presents, medical expenses, extracurricular activities, public transport, savings (especially for things like replacing the car, appliances, moving house etc), holidays, gas, water, electricity, entertainment, phone, internet, every single expense you have, list it and be realistic with the amounts. Use bank statements if needed to see how much you are truly spending.
Now you know how much you are spending, which ones can you reduce? Compare all insurances online, consider moving to a smaller place, shop when things are on sale, cook from scratch, buy in bulk, cut down on electricity usage. Go over your expenses with a fine-tooth comb, select where you can make changes then implement them.
3.) Make your own money
Cutting expenses is one thing, making more money so you can save, live a lifestyle you love and not rely on Centrelink or child support is a pretty amazing goal to have. It doesn’t happen overnight, it can happen though.
Work out ways you can make extra money, whether it be one of the 12 options I listed here for ways to make money while on Centrelink, or maybe it’s a new job or getting retrained/an education to launch a new career. Whatever it is, work out how to make more money now and how you will do that long term.
4.) Keep accurate records
While I advocate viewing child support as a bonus, don’t simply let it go if it’s not coming in. Make sure you keep your details up to date with CSA, let them know where the other party is working if you know, keep accurate records of when you speak to them, what you tell them, how much you have been paid, what you are supposed to be paid and eventually, when they track the other party down or they retire or something, you will get some money. By keeping accurate records, you will know what should be paid and you will enable CSA to do their job better.
What are your thoughts on child support?
*Please keep it nice, no name calling, no defamation etc.