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The Christmas season is upon us again, which means that most people will be spending much more than normal -- especially on gifts for the kids. But don't make the mistake of thinking that your gifts are an adequate substitution for your usual support payments.

Child support is designed to benefit the child by providing adequate money to help the custodial parent pay for essentials like food, shelter and clothing. The amount of support you have to pay is calculated according to your income, the other parent's income and the percentage of time each of you spends with the child. No matter how well-intentioned (or even badly needed) your gifts may be, they aren't substitutions for your regular support payments because all those other essential needs still have to be met.

It's never a good idea to simply stop paying your support -- nor can you just reduce what you pay without the court's permission. You also don't have the leeway to simply pay your support via gifts or other purchases. Doing so can subject you to numerous penalties and collection efforts, including:

  • A damaged credit score
  • A suspended driver's license
  • Liens on your car, home or business
  • The loss of your professional license
  • Criminal contempt of court charges
  • Jail time

Generally speaking, you can't expect temporary financial issues like the holidays to affect what you owe. However, if you find that your income is disrupted for some reason or your financial circumstances have changed drastically for the worse since your child support began, it may be time to talk about asking the court for a modification of your order.

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