Pay your support early

Typical language in South Carolina support orders is:

The obligor shall pay support directly to the obligee.  If the obligor is ever more than five days late making a payment, the obligee may file an ex-parte affidavit and order with the Family Court to have the obligor pay this support through the court with costs to the obligor.

Obligors frequently read this provision as giving them a five-day grace period to pay their support.  Even more extreme are the obligors who believe it’s acceptable to mail their support checks five days after the due date.  Such attitudes are mistaken and counterproductive.

Like any financial obligation, support is due by its due date.  If you mail your landlord or your creditor a payment on the due date, the creditor will consider that a late payment–even if you are not charged a late fee.  Paying support within this five-day grace period may prevent support from being paid through the court, which will add a 5% court cost to the support obligation, but it will not prevent a finding of contempt for a late payment.  Obligors who continually mail their support after their due date incur nothing but ill will from the court.  In contrast, obligors who habitually pay their support on time, and even early, frequently receive the benefit of the doubt from the court if there are disputes over misdelivered payments or if they become delinquent due to job loss or serious medical condition.  I have seen more than one obligor avoid jail because they had a substantial history of on-time payments that preceded a temporary support delinquency.

The other reason to pay support early is to engender good will with the obligee.  Most support obligees relay upon child support or alimony obligations to pay their month-to-month living expenses.  Those obligees who cannot be certain when their support will arrive have monthly anxiety from the day the obligation is due until the day the support is received.  They–rationally–attribute this anxiety to the obligor and this causes substantial and repeated ill will towards the obligor.  Such ill will makes these obligees more likely to resort to contested litigation.  When the obligee is a custodial parent, this ill will frequently causes the obligee to be less supportive of the obligor’s relationship with their children.  Further, such obligees will ask that support be paid through the court the first opportunity they have–even though the support often is received by the obligee even later if it first gets processed through the court.  Paying support five days early rather than mailing it five days late can engender a great deal of good will from most support obligees.

Paying support a little bit early rather than a little bit late requires nothing more than a bit of temporary budgeting.  Once one has gotten into the habit of paying support a bit early cash flow is no longer an issue, as support is being paid no more frequently–merely a bit earlier.  However the benefits of paying support early are substantial and continuous.  Every obligor should make sure support is received by the obligee before its due date.

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