Following a divorce or custody determination, child support is calculated by the court.  In most cases, the parties will follow the guidelines child support, a formula that takes into account both parents’ gross monthly incomes, if they have other children in the home, and the percent of parenting time of the noncustodial parent.  The parties may agree to increase or decrease the basic support from the calculator, but need to give specific reasons for the court to agree to it. This amount is considered basic child support.

In addition to basic child support, the court has the ability to assign the amount paid for medical expenses (premiums and out of pocket or unreimbursed) and for childcare expenses.  Unless the parties agree otherwise, the court must order a certain percentage that each parent is responsible to pay, which is related to their overall income.  Sometimes medical expenses may be challenged (i.e.-therapy), and sometimes child care may be challenged (i.e.-whether it was truly necessary for work or if it is considered childcare vs. a voluntary camp).

Most commonly, the questions that arise are related to what should fall under the umbrella of expenses covered by basic child support.  Sometimes, the paying parent wants to have an accounting of where the money is spent or disagrees with what it is spent on.  The court will not require the parent receiving support to have to account for the manner in which basic support is spent.

Another common question is what expenses should be considered paid by basic support.  Unless the parties agree otherwise, the court will only order basic, medical and child care support—every expense for the child needs to come from those funds.  Many parents agree with the amount of extracurricular activities and costs incurred in raising children today and to share in these additional costs, either by the same percentage for other costs or equally. This cost sharing is often seen as necessary to ensure children are able to remain as active as they were prior to their parent’s separation.

Parents need to have an understanding of the costs of raising their child prior to attending mediation or going to court.  If the parents want to work together and recognize the costs of raising their child, then it is more likely that the expenses will be shared going forward.

If you have questions regarding what is covered by child support or how it is determined by the court, contact a family law attorney to discuss your situation today.