No, Money Doesn’t Grow on Trees

Raising children can be very expensive. In addition to work-related childcare costs, costly travel-team expenses and ultimately college, there are day-to-day expenses like clothing and school costs that have to be covered. Frequently parents squabble over who should be taking care of these costs, especially as more and more parents are moving to a shared parenting arrangement that allows equal time with both parents. So who’s on the hook?

The Indiana Child Support Guidelines provide that “Controlled Expenses” are expenses for the child such as “clothing, education, school books and supplies, ordinary uninsured health care and personal care”. They are to be paid by the parent who receives child support. For example, if Mom receives child support from Dad for little Susie, then Mom would be the parent who is writing a check to Susie’s elementary school for book rental fees. Mom purchases the new winter coat that Susie will need this year because she has grown out of the one she wore last year. Mom will pay for Susie to get her haircut and place an order for Proactive. You get the picture.

This does not include the fee for Susie to play softball and the new cleats and helmet she needs. These would be considered extracurricular activity expenses which are usually outside of child support, as they are, by definition, “extra” from the day to day primary expenses for a child.

When parents share custody of a child, adjustments should be made in the child support calculation to contemplate both parents purchasing clothing and personal care items for a child. If you had to go back and forth between two residences, would you want to spend half of your time living out of a suitcase? No, and your child doesn’t want to either. Certainly there will be “favorite” items of clothing that may go back and forth between homes with the child, but those should be the exception, not the rule.

Clearly defining each parent’s financial responsibilities for the children going forward is your best defense against possible confusion and trips to Court later. Consult an attorney to see if your current order should be revised to avoid problems down the road.

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