On the day of the hearing, you are likely going to be nervous. Your nervousness may help you recognize the seriousness of this hearing if you planned to take the hearing lightly. Mistakes at a hearing may potentially cost you thousands, and you may not get another chance to present your case to the court. All evidence that you have needs to be presented to the court during your hearing. If you have child support payments that have not yet been calculated, bring documents that support your payment history. And, if you have a pending domestic violence case (and particularly if you have children), try to get the domestic violence case handled prior to your child support hearing.
My clients often ask me what documents they should bring to support their payment history of child support. In a perfect world, this process would be uniform and transparent. Every court would have the same list of what is and what is not considered a child support payment. However, every court has different standards and some judges or hearing officers will not consider some payments as child support payments. Upon learning the date of your final hearing, you should contact the court or an attorney in your area to gain a full understanding of what documents you need to bring with you to the hearing to evidence your past child support payments. Will the court accept cash receipts as evidence of child support payments? Copies of bank statements where you deposited money into the child’s mother’s account? Will your payment of utility bills at your child’s residence be counted toward child support? The answers to these types of questions will help ensure you get credit for items that are considered payments for child support in the court you are in. Without these answers, you may not get credit for all the payments you made which you thought would be considered child support.
In addition to finding out what type of things are considered child support payments according to the court, you can improve your chances of receiving credit for payments via written communication with your child’s mother. Evidence of written communication may be one of the strongest types of evidence you can have. A text or email regarding payment that was acknowledged by your child’s mother does a few things for you. First, it is proof that she is aware of the payment. Second, it is dated and can potentially correspond with bank records (for example if she texts that she received a $400 child support payment on March 1, 2018, and your bank records show a withdraw of transfer of $400 around March 1, 2018, you have convincing evidence that you did, in fact, make a child support payment of $400). Third, if your child’s mother lies about receiving the payment, you can potentially use the evidence of communication to impeach her testimony for being untruthful. Untruthful statements regarding domestic violence are a significant factor in child support hearings.
With the recent wave of the #metoo movement, violence against and mistreatment of women, whether sexual or domestic, are at the forefront of our culture and media. Cases of domestic violence can have a significant impact on your child support hearing if children are involved. If a domestic violence injunction is in place against you or you have a criminal domestic violence case pending, a hearing officer or judge may suspend your time-sharing for the duration of the injunction or until the criminal case is completed. If this happens child support will be calculated with you having no visitation. Even if, at a later date, the injunction is lifted, or you are found not guilty in a criminal court for domestic violence, you can’t go back and change those dates calculated at 0% time-sharing.
Additionally, you’ll likely have to go back to court to get time-sharing reestablished, thus paying more attorney fees and requiring an additional hearing. If possible, get any pending domestic violence issues resolved prior to your hearing to avoid this pitfall.
Men, take heed to these helpful hints, and you should be well prepared for your child support hearing.