Getting an order for child support seems like it should end financial conflicts – but often, it’s just the beginning.
Paying, tracking, and allocating child support can create a lot of friction between divorced parents. But, there are buffers you can put in place to reduce stress, increase compliance, and protect yourself. Here are five simple considerations for reducing conflict over child support:
- If your state allows it, settle child support by agreement rather than attending a hearing and arguing in front of a judge. When the agreement sets the support, there is a higher likelihood of compliance and a lesser possibility of conflict, court battles, and attorney fees. Bonus tip: familiarize yourself with your state’s guideline formula.
- Don’t forget the details: Specify in your order when support should begin. Specify the days upon which it is payable, and the amount of support allocated to each child. When support is allocated between children, as each child ages out of support, the order automatically adjusts without returning to court or filing an updated order.
- Understand that child support is simply for base living expenses. All “extra” costs, such as educational, athletic, extracurricular, medical, dental, child care, and tuition expenses, are paid on top of the support order.
- Ask for your child support order to include “Other parent to use SupportPay to track expenses support and expenses”. Reliable tracking benefits parents and children by lowering conflict, increasing payment compliance, encouraging quick reimbursement of extra expenses, and providing an alternative to face-to-face discussions. Also, SupportPay keeps clear, court-admissible records, needing in the event of any dispute.
- Be specific about how you split extra expenses. Only listing that “all” additional expenses are shared can lead to conflicts about whether something was an “authorized” expense. Track your payments and expenses through SupportPay. You have a clean record, can quickly resolve disputes, and don’t need to talk with your ex about money.
How specific should you get when it comes to splitting extra expenses for child support?
First, identify every extra expense a child might incur — from yearbooks and prom to auto insurance and diapers for daycare. Then, specify how you split each cost; equally, paid by one parent alone, or split proportionally to income. Only listing that “all” extra expenses are shared can lead to conflicts about whether something was an “authorized” expense.
Include specifics, such as “the parents shall share all medical, dental, orthodontic, counseling, and vision expenses, except that, Mother shall pay 100% of chiropractic costs.” Or, “All educational expenses shall be equally shared, including but not limited to, tuition, fees, field trips, yearbooks, uniforms, required donations or fundraisers, outfits for school dances, and graduation costs”. The child’s car insurance shall be a joint expense, but Father shall be liable for all other auto expeneses, including gas, costs, maintenance, and use.”
Talking to your former spouse about money can be contentious for even the most amicable co-parents. Whatever your relationship with your former spouse, protect yourself from conflict and confusion by implementing these five ideas.
Erika Anne Englund, Cooperative Divorce Attorney-Mediator
Creating a better divorce for better people since 2008