What Does Child Support Cover?
The divorce decree for parents of minor children requires both custodial and non-custodial parents to pay for child support. It is the legal duty of both parties to provide financial support, even if the custodial parent is capable of single-handedly caring for the needs of their minor children.
Contrary to what many may believe, child support is not meant to equalize the former spouses’ income. Instead, it is intended to provide the children’s needs and allow them to maintain the same standards of living between homes. The courts usually decide the amount and level of support through a standardized income table, while considering vital factors such as the parents’ individual incomes and the custody arrangements.
Laws on what expenses are directly covered by the child support payment tend to vary from state to state. For questions or issues regarding child support, divorced parents should seek the assistance of a child support attorney to help them understand state-specific child custody laws.
What is Covered?
There is a misconception that child support should only cover essential child-rearing costs like food and clothing, when, in fact, the coverage includes a broad range of expenses. Child support is intended to pay and cover basic living expenses that are necessary for the child’s healthy and proper upbringing, including:
• Food and nourishment
• Medical care
• Educational fees
• School-related extracurricular activities
Child support payment calculations can differ according to the facts of the claim. There are certain expenses; however, that may require a Proof of Need to be factored in.
Child support is not required and does not cover any unnecessary spending, such as luxury items and extensive vacations. But there are instances where the court may decide to increase the fundamental child support obligation.
In most states, courts order an increase in basic child support payments when a specific expense becomes increasingly necessary for the well-being of the child. This may include daycare expenses, health insurance premiums, and uninsured medical fees. The following additional costs are calculated outside of the basic child support guidelines and tend to vary according to the location and circumstances of the family involved.
Coverage for Extraordinary Expenses
There are instances when the divorce courts may order the non-custodial parent to provide additional child support for extraordinary expenses — if his or her resources allow. The funds can be used to pay for items and activities not covered by basic child support such as music lessons, sports equipment, summer camps, field trips, etc.
The family law courts do not demand such payments from non-custodial parents with limited economic means. In these circumstances, the court often maintains that the custodial parent makes do with the basic child support payment for the extracurricular expenses as well.
How Is Child Support Amount Determined?
States follow an established guideline when determining the amount of child support that a parent must pay. The courts take several factors into account, such as:
• The individual income of each parent and their ability to pay
• The financial need of the child/children
• The amount needed to provide the children with consistent living standards
A parent may file to modify the existing child support if there are any substantial changes in the needs of the child or a drastic change in financial circumstances, such as losing a job.
Dealing with Child Support Issues
Keep in mind that all parties involved are required to follow child support instructions as ordered by the court or risk legal consequences. That said, any issues with child support need to be appropriately handled in a timely manner, especially if it involves modification of support after a change in circumstances.
If you wish to question or change a child support order, you may do so by submitting a request in court with the help of a child support lawyer. An experienced attorney will be able to offer you sound legal advice and provide you with competent representation in court, should you need it.
This article was contributed by:
Sam Mazella – Marketing Director
Sam Mazella is the Marketing Director of The Peterson Law Firm, the go-to practice in Arizona when facing divorce, child custody, child support and financial crisis. On his spare time, he enjoys cooking and doing camping trips with his family and friends.