What does every parent have in common besides the millions of sleepless nights, the countless “what if” moments, and approximately 319.6 socks all still looking for their match?
The love for their kids is real – so real.
In fact, once a parent has a child, his/her brain actually rewires – regardless of whether the child is their birth child or adopted, and regardless of if the parent is male or female.
According to ScienceMag.org, researchers led by Ruth Feldman, a psychologist and neuroscientist at Bar-Ilan University, took a saliva sample from mothers, husbands, and homosexual father-father couples once they became parents and noticed that they all exhibited:
“The activation of what researchers term a ’parenting network’ that incorporated to linked, but separate, pathways in the brain. This argues that the experience of hands-on parenting, with no female mother anywhere in the picture, can configure a caregiver’s brain in the same way that pregnancy and childbirth do.”-Feldman
To top it off even further, Feldman summarizes her findings by conjuring that:
“It’s clear that we’re all born with the circuitry to help us be sensitive caregivers, and the network can be turned up through parenting.”
What does this ultimately mean for us parents? We really really love our kids – and we kind of can’t even help it.
Regardless of how our kids came to be, one thing is for certain – we want the best for them. With that, comes grand responsibility to make sure that whatever life throws their way, their parents will take on some responsibility to ensure that they have the best start possible for a bright and fulfilled future.
With that shiny rock on your finger, and the urge to give your kids the best, we are proud of you for looking into one of the most notoriously renowned ways that parents can take care of their kids: child support.
Though prenuptial agreements (prenups) cannot dictate child support, let’s dive into what child support is, how it is calculated, and why it’s important to consider in a round-a-bout kind of way while you’re creating your prenup with your partner.
What is child support?
Since we’re on a role with sliding stats into your face today, let’s keep the party going with a few more:
In the United States today, there are nearly 13.6 million single parents raising over 21 million children.
…we’ll wait for you to catch your breath before reading on…
That means that there are 21 million reasons and references as to why child support is so important and who’s ultimately going to benefit from the mandated payment of child support.
As it sounds, child support is a payment paid to a parent with majority custody of a child(ren) with the intent to cover basic needs of a child – such as food, housing, clothing, etc. However, child support can also cover a wider range of expenses, such as medical care, educational fees, childcare, entertainment, travel, etc.
With divorce so prevalent in our country, it’s pretty safe to say that child support is not a shy topic among households today. What’s less than ideal about this, is the fact that single parent households are also on the rise.
“A staggering 83% of single parents are mothers. Of these mothers, 45% are divorced or separated, while only 1.7% are widowed”, says Dawn, author of Single Mother Statistics.
According to Single Parent Magazine, “the number of single fathers has increased by 60% in the last ten years and is one of the fastest growing family situations in the United States.”
To break it down, the research is saying that child support is common. Why is it common? Because half of all married couples are getting divorced and raising children among two households (or one as a lone soldier).
How does this relate to prenups if a prenup can’t include child support?
Finances, Finances, Finances.
Prenups can include different financial arrangements, like alimony, lump sum payments, phasing in assets over a period of time, a sunset clause… to name a few.
But let’s talk about the infamous old alimony for a minute. Alimony is a payment made to the less wealthy spouse in need, by the other spouse who has the ability to pay, upon divorce. This payment is made for the spouse, not for the children and when awarded is separate from child support.
Alimony is calculated differently per state, but the overall guidelines are the same: alimony is calculated AFTER child support when kids are involved. In Massachusetts, for example, the alimony guidelines calculate child support up to 250,000/year in household income (regardless of the amount of children) and alimony is decided with the remaining balance of that income. Of course, these are just guidelines, and judges are free to modify as needed.
So, let’s say your partner decides to divorce you, and they are the breadwinner of the fam, but they are only making $251,000/year (ok, we say “only” for the purpose of this example, $251,000 is way more impressive than we give credit for here). That means there is basically no alimony to be paid.
Now, you may be thinking “um, that person will be fine with a child support payment calculated on $250,000 per year, I’m more worried about the majority of us who are making the American household average of $68,000/year?”
Let’s get into it:
What’s important to notice is that alimony is considered LAST. Which means, that the parent of the child (who is now going to become a single parent, mind you) will take the bare minimum to meet their basic needs of food, shelter, clothes, and comfort as well. Child support was not really created to replace working, and therefore that party will likely need to work, as well. That is really had to do when you have to take care of kids as a single parent.
So if your partner decides to leave you, and you don’t have a prenup with alimony clearly stated, and you are not independently wealthy or have another good source of income, you are looking at an uncomfortable situation of waiving your right to income that could cover your own basic needs (especially if you now have to re-enter the workforce from staying home for childcare duties, and now have to take on childcare payments, less time for your kids, and more time spent hustling to make ends meet).
Prenups can allow couples to agree on an alimony amount that is comfortable for them, and for couples who have children entering the marriage, and for couples who plan on having children together while married (as well as couples who don’t plan to have kids, but we’re keeping this one about the kids today), an alimony clause in a prenup can help keep finances feeling fair.
If there is a possibility between you and your partner that one of you will give up income for the sake of childcare, how will this be credited to the martyr deciding to stay home even though it could be potentially financially devastating for them?
Make sure to discuss if alimony makes sense for you and your partner if you two decided to co-parent and raise these kids amongst two different households. It’s even more crucial if you think that there is a possibility that you will be adding to the stammering statistic of being a part of the fast moving single parent train where you’re juggling all of the necessities by yourself. Protect yourself with alimony, and let child support cover the rest. For a deeper understanding, check out our article on “Alimony”.
Bottom line: child support is rarely enough
For those of us who are already parents, this statement doesn’t do justice. There’s never *enough* of anything when it comes to our kids – enough time to appreciate every first step or first word or face plant, enough times you can say “stop doing that” before they just have to learn for themselves, or enough money to give them every basic need and opportunity that they damn well deserve (because well, they’re our kids and we can’t help how much we love them).
For those of us in nesting mode and we don’t even have our kids physically with us yet, you’re already the world’s greatest parent for looking so heavily into the needs of your child early (as there really is never enough to fully get the most out of our kids and their lives).
With child support differing greatly from state to state, make sure you adjust in the necessary income to cover for YOU also. If your needs aren’t met, you’re running on an empty tank and won’t be able to stay strong for your kids (when you’re the one they look to for everything).
Whatever you decide, consider alimony when conducting your prenup. It can make a huge difference in the way you spend your time with your kids (and the overall amount of stress that you’ll already feel as a single parent trying to do the impossible daily).
HelloPrenup is specially designed to make this process easier. Our platform helps walk you through the prenup creation and negotiation process to generate what alimony makes sense for you and yours, along with additional clauses that can help your kids well being, such as health insurance clauses (how insurance is paid and by whom), lump sum payments (a pre-determined payment to compensate for those who have differed income), and sunset clauses (expiration dates on prenups making them no longer enforceable).
Want to include alimony in your prenup? HelloPrenup has that option. We love what we do and we’re excited for you to make your prenup yours.
XO, HP ????
Julia Rodgers is HelloPrenup’s CEO and Co-Founder. She is a Massachusetts family law attorney and true believer in the value of prenuptial agreements. HelloPrenup was created with the goal of automating the prenup process, making it more collaborative, time efficient and cost effective. Julia believes that a healthy marriage is one in which couples can openly communicate about finances and life goals. You can read more about us here Questions? Reach out to Julia directly at [email protected].