How do you Manage Expenditures for Your Children?

Your divorce is finally done and everything is going smoothly.  However you were not specific or clear as to how children’s expenses are to be handled.  Typically Parenting Agreements or Property Settlement Agreements only contain sections as to how college costs, medical expenses and sometimes, cell phones are going to be shared, they do not typically address things like the cost of new hockey skates or laptop computers.

If the amount of child support is minimal, say less than $200 per month, how can you balance who buys the new skates or pays for a school trip?  Hopefully you can just chat with your X and reach an amicable agreement on a fair sharing.  If this is not an option or, if you get a less than satisfactory response from your request for sharing, it can spell trouble.

I have had a client where the X sent the children to the car without a winter coat so that my client would have to buy the children one over the weekend. Really unfair to the children and a little nuts.  Their situation was extreme but it does happen.  Other clients have had situations where they have had to buy a whole new wardrobe for their parenting time and then had their X demand that the new clothes come back with the kids.

With time these types of issues soften, usually because the emotion of the divorce passes or it could be because you have given up fighting.

If this is your situation here are a few suggestions on how to manage this situation;

  •  Suggesting sharing items on a percentage of incomes basis. This is the most accepted way of sharing expenses.  Can get tricky if you have been deemed an income and are not earning what was deemed, but you can negotiate from there as a starting point.
  • You can agree that one parent takes care of specific items; for example the hockey expenses and the other pays for tennis or buys all the clothes.
  • You can wing it with a general agreement that each of you will spend a specific dollar amount on the kids each year for essentials. When you get to your limit you tell the other parent and then email him when the children need something.
  • You could share on the basis of who has the most parenting time. Logical approach since child support is based on that metric.

Whatever you decide using an on-line expense sharing tools (like Our Family Wizard or 2 Houses) can simplify keeping track of expenses, as the program does the math and keeps track of payments.  Both also have other very useful functions which can greatly assist with communication in a high conflict divorce.

As you prepare for your divorce keep this issue in mind and try to be very specific in your Parenting or Marital Settlement Agreements and you will have fewer hassles down the line.

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