Question: What exactly does child support legally cover and what does it not (i.e., deductibles, co-payment on necessary medical)? We are finalizing our divorce, and my wife still expects that I am accountable for non-essentials (sports camps, etc.). While I am glad to do as much as I can, I believe the child support should go as far as it can; and after that, it is a matter of either saying “no” to some activities or to getting mutual consent between the two parents on activities and costs. Is this in line with general thinking?
Answer: The “general thinking” varies from state to state. Some states are very explicit that child support covers every expense a child incurs while others have set up their guidelines only to meet the minimum needs of a child.
Since you are still finalizing your divorce, there is no reason not to specifically address this issue. If it is a source of contention now, it will continue to be well after the divorce. Confer with your attorney about things like deductibles and extracurricular activities and discuss the law in your state. If there is room for interpretation, be explicit in your agreement or in your testimony at trial about the need for clear guidelines on these subjects.
With respect to your children’s extracurricular activities, let me warn you that any “veto” power will likely be mutual. In other words, if your decree states that a party who does not agree upon an activity is not required to fund the activity, then your soon-to-be ex may very well object to every activity your children wish to participate in, thus leaving you with the entire financial burden for any sport or lesson that is important to you.
Jill Best is the Managing Attorney for the Overland Park, Kansas office of Cordell & Cordell, PC.