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Add it Up: Beyond Basic Child Support

Lawyers are typically tasked with revealing some tough realities to their clients. Sometimes it’s advising a client that arguing over a piece of furniture (in the long run) will only cost them more than the piece might be worth. And sometimes it’s a matter of discussing Child Support and the financial obligations that they must now face.

With respect to child support, the amounts to be paid are determined based on the payors income and the number of children that primarily reside with the other parent. Lawyers will familiarize clients with the Child Support Guidelines, and the tables therein which list various incomes in increments of $100.00 on the left, and the amount of children at the top.  To get an idea of how much child support a parent may have to pay, many people enter their specific details into any Child Support Calculator.

Some people think that’s all. Not exactly.

Child support covers the children’s basic necessities: food, clothing and shelter.  However, there are many child-related expenses that the law would consider to be “special or extraordinary”, and would go beyond basic child support payments.

The law classifies an expense to be “special or extraordinary” and outside of the scope of regular child support payments if the expense is necessary, it is in the child’s best interests and is reasonable considering the parents’ incomes and the standard of living of the parents prior to separation.

What are these extra expenses?  Section 7 of the Child Support Guidelines lists the following as “special or extraordinary” expenses (with a non-exhaustive list of examples of each type of expense).

  1. Child care expenses – ex: daycare, nanny, before-and-after school care.
  1. The portion of the medical and dental insurance premiums attributable to the child – If you have medical, dental and extended health benefits available to you through your place of employment, or private insurance, the portion of this expense that is attributable to the children can be shared between the parties.
  1. Health related expenses that exceed insurance reimbursement by at least $100.00 annually – ex: braces and other orthodontics, counseling, glasses, and therapy.
  1. Extraordinary expenses for primary or secondary school education – ex: private school tuition, religious school tuition, tutoring, after school programs
  1. Expenses for post-secondary education – ex: rent (if the child resides away from home for school), tuition, books, supplies.
  1. Extraordinary expenses for extracurricular activities – ex: rep level sports, activities where the equipment or the cost of attending is particularly high. This especially holds true if the child was involved in these sports or activities prior to the parents’ separation.

These “special or extraordinary” expenses are usually divided between the parents proportionate to their respective incomes.  This means that if one parent earns $30,000.00 and the other parent earns $60,000.00, the parent earning $30,000.00 would pay 33% of the expense, while the parent who earns double will pay double the expense, or 67% of the expense.

It is recommended that you consult with a lawyer to try to determine the actual amount of an expense that each parent should be expected to pay.  Certain expenses may allow for one parent to claim a tax deduction or obtain tax credits or another benefit which should be considered.  The other parent should pay the net-after-tax cost of the expense.

There are other expenses that may not be considered special or extraordinary expenses, such as a child’s cell phone bills or a gym membership.  Parents can agree on how to pay for them, and may even agree that a child should partially contribute to these expenses.

For more information on Child Support and “special or extraordinary” expenses, please call Gelman & Associates to set up a personal consultation.