The next article in the ten (10) point custody checklist is:
#5 Keep Checks, Receipts and Expense Records for Child Support or Spouse Support.
Perhaps no other payment in kind or otherwise should be more carefully documented than child support. Yet, there are several nuances to the child support and related issues that do not readily occur to fair dealing people.
The first rule is:
…pay any support, to anybody in a check or money order form only.
I don’t mean the 7-11 money orders that get lost etc. I mean checks. The kind that, if you lose them, the bank has a copy of the front and back. No exceptions.
The next rule is: pay CSES if you have a CSES number. What is a “CSES number” you say? Well it is a number assigned to you by the state when your ex opens a child support account. The CSES is the Maryland Child Support Enforcement Services. If you have a CSES number it will appear on an unimpressive letter from the State of Maryland.
The insidious thing about a CSES number is that, if you have one, it may mean there is an administrative order somewhere that if you make direct payments to your ex you don’t get credit. THIS IS A BIG THING. If you make direct payments, instead of payments to CSES, THE PAYMENTS MAY NOT COUNT. In fact, you may be held in contempt for your trouble!!
When it comes to the Maryland child support system, stuff is sometimes too weird to even make up. This is one of those things. If you have a letter (or got a letter in Maryland’s mind) you are breaking the law by paying your ex the child support directly. I have seen with my own eyes that you could come to court with proof of payments but not get credit because you did not mail the checks to CSES. So if you have anything with a “CSES” number, triple check before you send the check!
The last rule is: keep receipts for child type stuff you buy. If someone files child support papers against you, the court date is several weeks or even months away. When you do come to court the judge can make your child support obligation retroactive to the date the papers were filed. So you are behind before you even start.
A track record of any payments or purchases that are for the child(ren) will help to convince the judge that in the months leading up to court you were “stepping up to the plate.” Under those circumstances the judge will very often waive the arrears leading up to court and give you a clean start. Naturally this rule is subject to abuse by people saving fraudulent receipts or wanting credit toward minuscule expenses. Use your best judgement.
Tim Conlon, Esquire for The Custody Place
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