When a person receives paperwork indicating they have been sued for support, it often leads to panic and confusion. The most typical questions for any person being sued for support are “how am I going to afford this” and “what kind of support am I going to be paying, and who gets it”. While the first question is very fact specific and personal, and thus a question that you should discuss with your attorney, the second question is far more simple and prosaic. The general rule is that if you were married or have a child, there is a good chance that you will owe some type of support. There are multiple types of support that you can owe, such as spousal support, alimony pendente lite, child support and alimony. An experienced attorney can help walk you through these different types, but certain basic rules are applicable.
First, if you were legally married, there is a good chance that your spouse will be entitled to some type of support. This is typically in the form of spousal support (if no divorce has been filed), or in the form of alimony pendente lite (if the divorce has been filed). Each of these types of support has positives and negatives for both the payor and payee which are best discussed with your attorney.
Secondly, it is also important to realize that while the word “alimony” gets bantered about quite often, true alimony only occurs after a divorce and it has been awarded to a spouse who has need of it. However, there are significant tax benefits to a payee of alimony as opposed to payment of spousal support, alimony pendente lite and child support. For example, alimony is tax deductible to the payor and is considered income to the payee. As such it may be beneficial for a payor spouse to pay alimony if the payor spouse is in need of tax deductions. As stated before, an experienced attorney can help you understand some of the ramifications of these decisions.
It is also important to realize that if you have a child, that child (not the former spouse) has an absolute right to child support. It is important that it be understood that while a custodial parent may sue for the right to child support, the right of support belongs to the child. A parent may not negotiate or abrogate this right on behalf of the child. Some parents choose to forego child support, but that does not mean that the child’s right to child support is terminated or nonexistent.
Finally, it is also critical to note that while there is often an obligation to pay these support items, the amount of support is governed by the varying rules of civil procedure of your jurisdiction and the domestic relations laws of your jurisdiction. A Family Law Attorney is well versed in such laws and rules, make arguments, and help you go through your financial situation, to argue for reductions and deductions from the support amount. While there may be an initial cost to hiring a lawyer that seems expensive, consider it an investment into reducing future payments.