What Does Child Support Cover?

This is a question that plagues couples trying to coparent a child.  One side thinks child support payments should cover everything and the other usually thinks it does not cover nearly enough.

Ideally, child support is supposed to be a base figure that contributes to the basic needs of the child.  It represents the non-residential parent's obligation to provide for the child's food, shelter, clothing and other necessities.  As we have previously discussed, the parent receiving the child support is under no legal obligation to provide receipts showing how the money was used.

In addition to the base child support amount, the non-residential parent will also have to contribute to a portion of the child's health insurance cost, which is usually factored into the actual child support calculation itself.  He or she will also have to pay a percentage of work/school related child care expenses and "extraordinary uninsured medical expenses."  Extraordinary uninsured medical expenses are defined as any medical expense for the child that exceeds the first one hundred dollars in the calendar year; meaning that the residential parent is on the hook for the first $100 each year but after that the expenses are divided.  Daycare and uninsured medical expenses are divided proportionately according to the parents' incomes.

There is no requirement that the non-residential parent contribute additional money for extracurricular activities, school clothes, dance lessons or other similar expenses.  Although it is not a requirement, if the parents share a good co-parenting relationship, hopefully each of them will want the child to be able to experience childhood to the fullest and will assist each other in covering the cost of those activities just as they would have had the parents stayed together.  If a particular expense is important to the the parents (for example, college expenses), the parents may agree to share that cost in their marital settlement agreement or joint parenting agreement and the court will generally enforce it.  Absent such an agreement, there is no requirement for additional payments beyond child support, childcare and medical payments.

Photo courtesy of Reuben Ingber

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