After a divorce, it’s usually difficult to deal with all of the important decisions that have to be made with your ex-spouse. Between deciding how to split your child’s expenses, and getting used to a new living arrangement, the situation can sometimes get messy.
The base child support calculation is done by state guidelines, and from there, parents decide how they want to split the remaining child-related expenses. While many couples speed through this process, as they are usually in a rush to get as far away from each other as possible, it’s important to take the time to talk through how those expenses will be managed and split.
Despite how fast and easy it may seem to allocate payment responsibilities when it comes to child-related expenses, there are a few topics that generally get left out during the initial planning phase.
It is crucial to think about your child’s future since many expenses aren’t incurred until later in their life.
Here are a few things that parents commonly miss when calculating child support, but shouldn’t:
1. Splitting Up the Medical Expenses.
There are a lot more medical costs than most people realize, and it’s important to have a detailed payment plan to avoid conflict with your ex-spouse. Included in the plan should be how you and your ex-spouse handle insurance. Who makes the payments? How does your plan split the co-payments and prescription costs?
These small costs might not seem like a lot, but if one parent gets stuck paying the majority of them, arguments are bound to happen. Medical records and payments are especially important to keep track of, so I recommend using an app that helps parents keep track of payments.
There are also unexpected events parents never plan for. Emergency situations, a new prescription, or sick days that bring their own additional onset of costs. Your plan should contain a detailed method of handling such scenarios. It is also useful to have limitations set in place that require the other parents’ permission if an expense is over a certain dollar amount.
Similarly, you should talk with your ex-spouse to construct guidelines about whether or not you can send the child to doctors not included in the insurance network, and if so, how you are going to pay for those visits.
2. Covering Child Care Costs & Summer Activities:
Costs for childcare are not covered by monthly child support payments and need to addressed and managed throughout the year between two parents. Many daycare or afterschool child care programs will only bill one parent and it’s up to both to handle sharing the costs. Keeping track of those monthly fees will help keep records and better manage shared costs.
Along the same lines with child care, parents typically forget to account for spring and summer breaks where further child care is needed while they are away at work. This brings a new onset of expenses and schedule rearranging that separated parents will need to manage on their own.
3. Children’s Education: Now and into the Future.
I have seen parents make similar mistakes here, where they are often looking at education expenses now or they’re looking to the future for college expenses. The truth is, both now and future education plans need to be part of a larger discussion.
Is private school, which will bring tuition, uniform, and supply expenses to parents, of interest? Or tutoring, and if so for how long and how many times a month? If so, who pays for it, and for how long? It also will come as no surprise that after-school activities will bring their own set of numbers to crunch.
The key here is to put a budget in place before you make any decisions and prevent any arguments as receipts start to pile up.
Before you know it, your child will be done with primary and secondary school and will be looking for a college to attend. When you and your spouse were together, there might have been a bank account set aside for college savings, or even a jar full of coins sitting in the living room. After the divorce, however, it can become unclear who is in charge of the savings.
You need to figure out who controls the bank account and how much money each parent puts into savings each year. Parents can opt to make the savings a flat rate or, if necessary, a percentage of each parent’s income as long as both are comfortable with it. Whatever route you and your ex-spouse decide to take, just make sure you start planning as soon as possible to avoid arguments in the future.
4. Future Milestones: All the “Firsts” to Consider as a Family.
Depending on the age of your child at the time of the divorce, there might be future payments that you and your ex-spouse haven’t thought of. When your child reaches driving age there are multiple expenses that you have to manage; insurance will likely go up, you might have to purchase a starter car, and there will be extra gas costs. Most likely only one parent will be paying for this upfront, so it’s important to have a plan already in place once the child gets on the road.
Similarly, you might not be thinking about getting your child a cell phone right now, but at some point, it will be necessary for them to have one. Cell phone expenses these days aren’t getting any lower with new models being released each year, and data costs continuing to grow. Some parents might opt to split the costs by making one responsible for the phone bill while the other has to purchase the phone and cover any costs incurred if it’s damaged, lost, or stolen.
Granted, car and cell phone payments aren’t the only thing you will encounter raising a child, but it doesn’t hurt to plan for as much as you possibly can.
Most divorcees would like to reduce the amount of facetime with their ex’s as much as possible. Luckily, there are tools ex-couples can use today to do just that while also keeping their child’s best interests at heart. Communicating easily with your ex will ensure that your child receives everything he or she needs growing up but that doesn’t mean you need to suffer while doing it.