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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  • AF Bleecker

    Or, as Judge Landis once said in stating the obvious “if its due on the 1st, it’s due on the 1st” …… I am now sending this to the lawyers for habitual offenders who love to pay late. Thanks…

  • Stanley Feldman

    I often recommend paying a month ahead. Double up once and receive the benefits mentioned above!

  • Crystal Caldwell

    Is there any recourse if the NCP is obligated to pay the court and is constantly late? It seems he avoids being ruled in by paying what he owes in the nick of time, but otherwise is constantly late. I’d like to have the way he pays changed to being deducted from his paycheck. Is that possible and if so how?

    • As Judge Creech often tells litigants, the five day period to trigger the ex-parte provision in most support orders doesn’t create a five day “grace” period. Late is late and one can file a rule to show cause for habitual late payments and expect to receive a favorable ruling.

  • lyn

    I totally agree, if it is due on the first, pay on the first.
    This stuff of putting it in the bank on the 5th at 4:55, then I do not get it until the 8th is not acceptable.
    The court in SC should rule this to be willfully being disrespectful and irresponsible towards the mother of their children, and THEIR CHILDREN.
    Stricter rules should be imposed.

  • Ann

    What if the payor doesn’t have the ability to pay early? What if the payments are 5k per month and he or she has to utilize other income each month? Perhaps people should not rely solely on alimony and get a job. The alimony laws in South Carolina are unfair and should be amended!

    To the previous comment, be thankful your payments are deposited into your bank. There are children starving and you complain about your “paycheck” not being deposited until 4:55?

    • Jim

      I agree with Ann! SC lifetime alimony is unfair!

  • Liza

    When the due date is not specifically stated, and only states that it is to follow the state mandated guild lines, what is the due date?

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