When parents get divorced, they will need to address multiple issues related to their children. While determining how to share custody of children will usually be one of the issues that will be most important to parents, matters related to child support will also be a primary concern. Parents will want to make sure their children will have the financial resources they need at all times, and they will also need to determine how they will share in various expenses involved in raising their children. By understanding these issues, a parent can make sure their children will be provided for while also protecting their own financial security.
As with other issues related to divorce, it is crucial to work with an attorney when addressing issues related to child support. An experienced divorce lawyer can help parents understand their rights, their obligations toward their children, and the factors that will be considered when determining what is covered by child support, child support obligations, and child-related expenses.
What Expenses Are Covered By Child Support?
Child Support Obligations to Provide for Children’s Basic Needs
Every state has its own laws that determine when parents will be required to pay child support as well as how the amount of these payments will be calculated. Typically, child support will be paid by the non-custodial parent (the parent who will have less visitation or parenting time with the children) to the custodial parent (the parent who children will live with the majority of the time). In some states, child sup
port obligations are based on the income earned by the non-custodial parents, while in others, both parents’ incomes will be taken into account to determine an amount of support that would be appropriate.
The amount of child support determined using these calculations is sometimes known as the “basic child support obligation.” This amount will usually represent what a parent would be expected to pay to meet their children’s needs if they were still married. These payments are meant to cover children’s basic, daily needs. A parent who receives child support is typically presumed to use these payments to cover costs related to feeding children, making sure they have the proper clothing, and providing them with a home where they can live comfortably.
Addressing Additional Child-Related Expenses
While the basic child support obligation will make sure children’s regular, ongoing needs are met, parents are likely to encounter multiple other types of expenses as they raise their children. They will usually need to divide these costs, and they will both be required to contribute toward any expenses that ensure that children can continue to grow and develop in a healthy manner. Additional costs that parents may be required to pay on top of their basic child support obligations may include:
- Educational expenses – Parents are usually required to pay certain fees when enrolling children in school, and they will also need to purchase school supplies, uniforms, or any other items that are needed to ensure that children will receive the proper education. If children will be attending private school, parents will need to determine how to divide the costs of tuition. They may also need to address other related expenses, such as tutoring or educational programs outside of school.
- Healthcare costs – Parents will be required to maintain health insurance coverage for their children. While children may be covered under a parent’s employment-related health insurance plan, the other parent may be required to contribute toward the monthly premiums. Parents will also need to determine how to divide the costs of any other health-related expenses, such as co-pays for doctor visits, medications, or treatments needed to address children’s developmental disorders or other extraordinary health issues.
- Child care expenses – Children may need to attend daycare while parents are working, or the parents may choose to hire a nanny or make other arrangements to ensure that their children will have the proper care and supervision. Parents will usually be required to divide the costs of employment-related child care.
- Costs related to extracurricular activities – Children will usually participate in a variety of different types of activities, such as sports programs, music lessons, dance classes, gymnastics, Boy Scouts or Girl Scouts, or after-school clubs. Parents may split the costs of these activities, or they may agree that each parent will pay a certain amount for specific activities each year.
Are Parents Required to Pay for Children’s College Expenses?
Unless children have disabilities or extraordinary needs, parents’ obligations to pay child support will usually end when a child graduates from high school or turns 18 years old. However, children will likely be looking to pursue a college education. Since a college degree can have significant benefits that will allow a child to pursue their chosen career, parents will likely want to determine how they can help children address the costs of receiving a college education.
Depending on state laws, divorced parents may be required to contribute toward their children’s college expenses, or parents may agree to do so in their divorce settlement. Parents may need to help their children address the costs of tuition, room, and board, as well as enrollment fees, the costs of books and supplies, transportation, health insurance and other medical expenses, and any other expenses that are necessary to ensure that their children can receive the proper education.
Get Legal Help With Issues Related to Child Support
Because the laws related to child support can be different depending on the state where parents live, it is important for divorcing spouses to work with an experienced attorney to ensure that they are addressing these issues correctly. A qualified child support attorney can make sure child support obligations are established correctly while also assisting with any other child-related issues that need to be addressed during divorce.