When they think about a child support order, most parents only think about what is known as “base” support. That is, the monthly amount one parent must pay the other parent every month. There is no set rule on what the receiving parent can spend that money on, as the court expects and assumes that the money goes toward the child’s basic needs, such as food, clothing, and housing. However, it comes as a surprise to many that the base order is not where the payments end.
What the law says
California Family Code Section 4062 mandates the court to order additional support for two other types of expenses: 1. work-related childcare expenses (daycare); and 2. reasonable uninsured health care expenses for the child (think: co-pays, anti-biotics). Going further, there are also expenses the court can tack on to the child support order in their discretion. This can be for expenses like the child’s education or costs of travel expenses for visitation.
There's no right way
There isn’t one set method for payment that courts order for daycare expenses, because every family is different. In some cases, the parents have always kept their children in a certain after-school program and intend to keep them there. In other words, it’s a known expense. In this case, the court may feel comfortable including in the order exactly how much each parent has to pay. A Judge will often look to the parents to decide how payment should be made. Each parent could write their own check to the daycare facility, or one parent could front the funds, and the other parent reimburses them. Regardless of how the order is framed, it is mandatory that the parents split this expense, and it should absolutely be paid in a way that is easily tracked in case of a discrepancy, or a missed/late payment.
It can get complicated
Things can become a lot more complicated when daycare expenses fluctuate month-to-month, such as when a parent doesn’t work consistently and only needs daycare sometimes. There can also be disagreements about whether daycare expenses incurred were in fact “work-related.” When daycare times and costs aren’t previously determined, and sometimes they can’t always be, this puts an extra burden on the parents to communicate about the differing amounts and scenarios that daycare was needed every month.
A solution like SupportPay can help parents easily communicate and track these expenses, reducing the likelihood they will become confused, angry, or end up in court. An added benefit of using a tech platform to track these requests is ensuring each request is proper per the order. One can imagine a situation in which one parent disputes the reason a parent incurred an expense, alleging they really used childcare to go on a date, rather than to work. A Judge would want to see the correspondence to determine whether the expense is proper per the court order. The app also helps prove that payments were made timely, or at all. SupportPay easily produces the correspondence and payment history for the Judge, who can then decide whether certain requests or payments are valid and enforceable.