When it comes to getting divorced or ending a relationship with the parent of your child there is a lot going on. From getting used to a new living situation to dividing assets most of the time, energy and effort goes into the current situation. As I have talked to many parents and family law professionals I am constantly told that the child support order or agreement is the easy part.
The story usually goes something like this:
- A calculation is done for the base amount (based on state calculators)
- The order says we split medical & child care
- A few parents discuss future education expenses
- or parents agree to “share the expenses”
Then both parents go through the “divorce high”. Trust me I have been there as well. That is the time after the divorce when you are just happy to be away from the other parent. Life is good, you are moving on and the past relationship finally feels like the past.
Then reality sets in!
Here are some questions you should be discussing up front – not months or years later when the situation arises:
- Who pays for the insurance? Do you split it or is one parent responsible?
- Who pays for the co-payments?
- Prescriptions – is that a shared expense?
- An emergency surgery – how will that be paid for?
- Braces, eyeglasses or other medical “devices” – how will those be determined? who will pay?
- Is there a maximum amount you will pay before the other parent needs to get your approval?
- Does the child have to go to in-network doctors? What if they are taken out of network? Who is responsible for the bill?
- How will child care be divided?
- What about during spring or summer breaks?
- What happens if the child gets sick? Will you split the cost of babysitter so both parents can go to work?
- Summer camps – do you share these expenses? What is a reasonable amount to spend on the camp?
- Public school? or private school?
- School clothes
- Textbooks and supplies?
- School trips, sports or extra activities – how will they be divided?
- Is there a maximum either parent is allowed to spend before having to get the other parents permission?
- College tuition? college savings?
All the extras
- Do you split the cost of a car for the child?
- Who pays for the cell phone? or the cell phone bill?
- Out of town visitation – who is responsible? Does the parent still pay child support for the time the child is with them?
- Extra-curricular activities – dance, music, trips, sports and all the other things that cost so much when it comes to raising a child – how will those be determined or paid for?
After a divorce or separation it may seam as if things are going to get better. But reality is that there is even more things to discuss when it comes to sharing expenses and exchanging child support with the other parent. Don’t wait until its too late to settle these things. If you discuss these things early and “define the rules” both parents will be able to significantly reduce the conflict associated with co-parenting and sharing expenses.
Are there other items I missed? What are some areas that have caused conflict in your parenting relationship that you wished you discussed earlier?