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Massachusetts Divorce Law Monitor What you never thought you'd need to know about divorce

Child Support: The Additional Expenses You Should Be Aware Of

Posted in Divorce Process

Hi there,

Third in our outline of topics to consider when getting divorced are additional, child related expenses. The child support monies are intended to cover food, shelter and clothing; but as anyone who has raised a child knows, that is only the beginning. Some of these expenses should be shared with the other parent.

Uninsured medical expenses:

According to the child support guidelines, the primary caretaker of the kids pays the first $250 per year for all the kids in combined routine uninsured medical and dental expenses. After that, the parents divide the costs equally. This sounds simple, but it can result in accounting and repayment problems. Be sure to keep all records of bills paid and be sure to submit the bills for timely payment both to the other parent and the insurance company if you need to. Since insurance companies differ wildly in their requirements, as do medical and dental providers, it is best to consider your situation from both aspects and have some language in your agreement that takes care of all forseen possibilities.

Extracurricular activities, and other costs:
These are no longer considered to be part of child support, so it is necessary to have an agreement on what extracurricular activities the kids will have. Other costs can include sports gear, art supplies, etc. that are necessary for the planned activities; it can also cover such things as summers abroad and church trips, the list goes on and on. A good rule of thumb is to try and keep the kids lives as stable as possible, so if you can, at least keep them in their current activities. You should have both a mechanism for agreement on the activities, and also a mechanism for division of payment.

Summer camp:
Again, this is no longer part of child support; and since it can be, and often is, necessary for the custodial parent to work. The work requirement means summer camp expenses can be considered child care in calculating the guidelines or it may not. If the camp costs are used as daycare costs in the guidelines, obviously the costs won’t be divided. You should consider a cap on the cost, as summer camps can run up to many, many thousands of dollars. There should be a mechanism to agree on the camp including when to agree as well as a default resolution if parents cannot agree, and, finally, the cost of camp has to be allocated.

Private school:
This is generally not ordered by the Court, although in certain circumstances it can be. There needs to be a method set up to agree on first, the concept of private school and then, the school itself, and then there needs to be a method to divide the cost. The cost often ends up being considered as part of the payor’s child support.

College/Post secondary education:
The Court does not have the authority to make any rulings about college until the kids are on the eve of attendance. This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try to resolve this earlier in your separation agreement. If there is extra money having some of it go to 529 accounts can be a good idea. Given the incredible cost of a private college education ($50,000 per year per child and climbing) there seems to be a move afoot in the courts to cap the amount either party is required to contribute at the cost of a State school, such as UMass Amherst. Again you need a mechanism to chose the college, remembering to keep each other informed, and a mechanism to divide the costs.

Stay tuned for the next installment and drop me a note to let me know if these are helpful!

Best,
Nancy

  • caryn b

    Hi There-
    I have been divorced from my sons father for 8 years. In our divorce decree it states that unisured medical bills will be split 50/50. My first question is, my sons father bought my son a pair a baseball pants. He deducted the amount he spent on the baseball pants from last quarters medical expenses?. Is he legally allowed to do this? I did not ask him to buy these and I would think one has nothing to do with the other. My second question is my son has special needs and I have alot of Md appointments in the city. I take about 10 days off a year for these appts. ON top of my co-pay, that the ex does pay half off, I pay parking, tolls, gas. These addt expenses for 1 MD appt in the city can add up to another $30. Can he legally be responsible to pay these? Obviously, it is not an amicable divorce and he is extremly uncooperative. ANy adivce is appreciated. Thanks, Caryn

  • Nancy

    Hi Caryn,
    I am not sure which state you are in , but will assume its Massachusetts. Your ex CANNOT deduct a pair of pants from the medical expenses. That is something Judges really, really don’t like. As far as the costs of attending medical appointments are concerned it will depend first on the exact language of the agreement and if that does not specify or can’t be stretched to cover the expenses, then you might want to consider if you can go back to court and ask for him to share or to increase your child support as you have these extra expenses.
    Good luck and let us know how this turns out.
    Best,
    Nancy
    This Blog/Web Site and email response is made available by Attorney Nancy R. Van Tine and Burns & Levinson LLP for educational purposes only – i.e. to give you general information and a general understanding of the law, not to provide specific legal advice in relation to any situation you or anyone else may have. There is no attorney client relationship between you and the Blog/Web Site publisher, Attorney Nancy R. Van Tine or Burns & Levinson LLP. The information on this Blog/Web Site and email response should not be used as a substitute for competent legal advice from a licensed attorney in your state engaged by you for such purpose.

  • Seanbeatty

    I wonder what is considered child care costs on Finial form, Is rent and heat, oil etc. “Child care cost”?/ Im trying to fill out form on line and wonder what to deduct

    • http://www.lexindicium.com/ Nancy

      Hi there,
      If the form you are talking about is either the Massachusetts’s financial statement or the Massachusetts’s Child Support Guidelines worksheet “child care “ refers to sitters, daycare etc . Hope this helps.
      Best
      Nancy

  • divorcesucks

    from MA: Why does the judge in my case (modification after divorce)  There is no school housing, so I got him an apartment, which he needs 11 months of the year.  His father was aware of the plans, but never agreed up front because he’s too immature to have an adult conversation about anything.  His father has paid NOTHING for college so far.  My son visits me (3000 miles away) during winter/summer vacations but also sees his father who lives 6 hours away on a monthly basis.  My son lived with me until he left for college.  Everything I’ve read indicates that I am entitled to child support for him until he is out of college or 23.  What gives?  What did I do wrong?  I get the feeling that if he was in a standard 4 year college in a dorm with clearly defined expenses, there would be no question.  He is fully dependent on me.  This seems completely unfair. 

    • nvantine

      Thank you for reaching out. It sounds like you have a complex situation, and need to consult with an attorney. Best of luck.