Children are expensive, and no one is more aware of this than divorced parents. When child support is ordered, it is not necessarily able to cover all of the expenses of a child. So what is it actually supposed to cover?
Generally, the parent receiving child support is supposed to cover what are commonly referred to in the Indiana Child Support Guidelines as “Controlled Expenses”. These expenses include things like clothing, public school fees, school supplies, a portion of uninsured medical expenses and personal care items. While both parents may want to have some clothing items at his or her home for the child, only the parent receiving child support is expected to make sure the child has a winter coat that fits or to make sure the child has tennis shoes to wear on days when the child has gym class. There is no requirement that a parent purchase specific name-brand clothing, or that a parent of a rapidly growing child cannot shop at a consignment store. It may not be what the other parent would purchase, but so long as the child has age-appropriate, clean clothing that is undamaged and that fits the child, the parent’s obligation has been met.
Education expenses are limited to public school fees and costs which are assessed to all students, such as textbook rental, school lunches, and uniforms, if required. If the child receives a grade for the class or activity, it is curricular in nature and would be paid by the parent receiving support. Private school tuition costs are above and beyond what is required under the guidelines and should be discussed and allocated between parents prior to enrolling the child.
If the child uses a special lotion at both homes due to eczema, for example, that would fall under uninsured medical expenses (if prescription), and the parent receiving support should purchase it and make sure it travels with the child. However, if it is a lotion that is inexpensive and easily purchased at a grocery or drug store, it may make more sense for both parents to have a bottle at their respective homes so that there is one fewer thing to transport back and forth for parenting time.
There are expenses that are not covered in the guidelines, such as cell phones, driver’s education classes, summer camps and automobiles. Parents should remember that their only true obligations to their children are food, clothing, shelter, education and medical care. Items like extracurricular activities and cell phones are the norm, but they are actually “extras” that are not required and are not part of child support. Parents should communicate in advance to determine how these should be divided before they become an issue.