Recently, we discussed special considerations that divorced couples need to give to child support payments if they have a child who has athletic, artistic or other talents that require considerable funds for training and competing. However, there are many other expenses that come with raising a child that aren't always taken into consideration when child support agreements are negotiated. This can be particularly true if the children are young when their parents divorce.
Child support agreements often deal with essentials like food, clothing, medical care and schooling. Too often, they don't address the "extras." This can lead to conflicts between co-parents, with kids stuck in the middle. Of course, what some people consider extras, others consider essential. Co-parents may disagree on whether music lessons, private school and summer camp are necessary and, therefore, who will pay for them.
"Extras" Will Change as Your Children Grow Up
Even if spouses agree on what expenses are covered by child support when they divorce, those expenses will change and likely increase as kids get older. Daycare costs give way to orthodonture and prom expenses. Then there's college tuition. It's best to identify as many potential expenses beyond the basics as possible when you draw up your agreement.
Of course, you can't foresee everything. It's often necessary to update your child support agreement as your children get older and as your income levels change.
When drawing up a child support agreement for younger children, it's important to consider expenses for daycare and babysitters. These are important since most stay-at-home moms need to return to the workforce, at least part time, shortly after divorce.
For school-age kids, it's a good idea to look at all of their expenses -- not just those for tuition if they're in private school -- and school supplies. Consider school uniforms, afterschool care, yearbooks, extracurricular activity fees, musical instruments and sports equipment. As they hit driving age, even if your kids aren't getting their own car, it costs money to add them to your insurance policy.
Plan for the Future as Much as Possible
For many families, a divorce means a change in lifestyle, and often a tightening of the budget, for everyone. However, couples still want to give their kids all the advantages possible, within their means. Your family law attorney can help you negotiate a child support agreement that's as comprehensive and forward-thinking as possible so that you and your ex don't have to battle over expenses as your children grow up.
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