My ex-wife and I share custody of our children. Variable expenses are to be paid to each other quarterly.
My ex is now asking me to pay half of our 12-year-old daughter’s cell phone bill. I consider this a want, not a need. Am I still required to pay it?
While I am not licensed to practice law in your state and cannot give you legal advice, I can give some general observations on this issue based on the jurisdiction where I practice.
Where I do practice in Pennsylvania, child support orders from one parent to the other are generally intended to cover basic needs of the children. When the child support amount is generated, it is mostly off of the incomes of the two parents and how that income translates to a monthly support obligation for the children that is due from both parents.
That monthly support obligation, found in Pennsylvania Rules of Civil Procedure 1910.16-3, was crafted by the state based on the average amount spent on items such as food, housing, transportation, clothing and other miscellaneous items that are needed by children and provided by their parents.
If one parent decides to expend more for the children above and beyond the usual necessities, then that parent can ask the court to consider her expenditures when coming up with the final child support amount.
Cell phone access for a 12 year-old is likely to be a very fact-specific inquiry made by the Court in determining whether such an expense is reasonable in order to properly care for that child. Pennsylvania courts have found reasonable expenses to be items such as mortgage payments, household utilities, automobile expenses, and babysitting costs. Lampa v. Lampa, 537 A.2d 350 (Pa.Super. 1988).
Due to the fact-specific nature of this situation, I would strongly suggest you contact an attorney who handles family law matters in your jurisdiction, such as Cordell & Cordell, to see how your state’s laws can help you with this serious situation. This type of attorney should be helpful in providing you specific assistance for your matter so that you can do what is in the best interests of your child.
Remember, I am unable to provide you with anything more than divorce tips, so please consult a domestic litigation attorney in your jurisdiction to obtain specific advice as to the laws in your state and how they impact your potential case.