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.
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.
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!