Basic child support is a weekly or monthly obligation from the non-custodial parent to the custodial parent. This means that the parent who has the children in his or her care more than 50% of the time (the custodial parent) will receive child support from the other parent. This basic child support obligation, as discussed in the most recent prior blog entry, is meant to compensate the custodial parent for food, clothing, and shelter. The truth is that the custodial parent can spend this money how he or she sees fit. There are no hard and fast rules but the lawmakers intended this payment to compensate for these basic needs for the children – food, clothing, and shelter.
Child Support “Add-On” expenses are additional expenses related to the children that are incurred by either parent. However, the majority of these expenses are usually incurred by the custodial parent because this parent has the children most of the time. The most common add-on expenses are work-related child care and unreimbursed medical expenses – including the cost of the children’s health insurance. The Courts usually order that the parents contribute to these expenses in proportion to their combined income. This is also referred to as a parent’s “pro rata” share.
Often times in divorce mediation, the parents agree to divide these expenses in proportion to their incomes as would happen in court. However, in mediation the parents have the freedom to enter into various other arrangements in order to handle these significant expenses. For example, a Husband non-custodial parent may agree to pay additional basic child support in exchange for the Mother agreeing to cover the children’s medical expenses (perhaps with a cap on the Mother’s obligation in case of an extraordinary medical expense). This may appeal to the couple so that they are not consistently requesting reimbursement for expenses incurred and providing proof of payment to each other. This type of an arrangement simplifies the accounting aspect of paying for add-on’s. Other times, one spouse may agree to pay for 100 percent of a particular add-on expense in consideration of some other benefit that that person receives in negotiations. For example, “I’ll pay for all of Junior’s college but let’s end my spousal support obligation when Junior begins college rather than at a later date”.
Besides work-related child care and unreimbursed medical expenses, there are other expenses that divorcing couples often agree to divide. These include but are not limited to extracurricular activities, tutoring, private school tuition, religious education, music or dance classes, and college.
The benefit of working out the allocation of these expenses in mediation rather than in Court is the flexibility that the parties enjoy to discuss and find creative solutions that work for both parties. If the Court decides these issues, it is very likely the Judge will utilize the guidelines and rigidly apply the rules regardless of the parties’ specific situation or preference. However, our divorce mediators will sit down with you and layout various options, listen to your concerns and objectives, and work with you to find a solution that is agreeable to both clients. Another benefit is that each party can incorporate these expenses into their post-divorce budget and have an understanding of how these costs will impact their post-divorce cash flow and financial situation. Please call Divorce Mediation Advisors today and talk to one of our Divorce Mediators!