Kids are expensive.  It’s hard enough, financially, to raise a child when you’re married but who pays for the children’s expenses in a Naples, Florida divorce?

The Florida estimated child support amounts per the guidelines lists out a number for each total income of the parents.  It’s as though the state of Florida is saying, “This is what it costs to raise a child at your income.”

Anyone who has actually had children will look at that number and say, “kids cost a lot more than that!”

That’s because the number is not for the total expense of the children but rather the expense of a “no frills” child whose expenses are only food, clothing and the rent for his room.  These children, as all parents know, do not exist.

So, how do we calculate all the other expenses a child has like health care, dental care, extracurricular expenses?  And who pays for it all?

All the additional expenses of a child beyond food, clothing and shelter are handled separately outside of child support.  The net incomes of both parents are determined the same way one would when determining the child support amount.  Then the proportions of incomes are determined.  For example, if Dad’s income is $ 5000 and Mom’s income is $ 3000 then the proportions are 62.5% and 37.5%, respectively.

Then whenever an expense comes up for the child, that expense shall be split proportionally. Per my previous example, a $ 1000 hospital bill for the child would be split 62.5% to Dad and 37.5% to Mom.

Of course, the parties never get together and each write a check for their proportional amount to whomever the expense is owed.  One parent covers the expenses and demands reimbursement from the other parent for their share.  Typically, I will include timelines in the final judgment and parenting plan of when the notice for reimbursement must be submitted and when the reimbursement must be paid after such notice.  Practically, this is important or one parent can accrue a massive debt to the other parent which becomes a source of both leverage and enmity.

Typically, if the expenses are regular like health care premiums or daycare expenses, the parties don’t reimburse each other but, rather, extend each other a credit against the child support they owe or are owed.  For example, it’s feasible that an absent father pays so child support so long as he pays the health care and child care in an amount that is equal to his share and the mother’s share of those expenses.

The real issue regarding expenses is what qualifies as an expense that is share-able.

The statute is clear that health care and child care expenses are definitely share-able.

“(7) Child care costs incurred due to employment, job search, or education calculated to result in employment or to enhance income of current employment of either parent shall be added to the basic obligation. After the child care costs are added, any moneys prepaid by a parent for child care costs for the child or children of this action shall be deducted from that parent’s child support obligation for that child or those children. Child care costs may not exceed the level required to provide quality care from a licensed source.
(8) Health insurance costs resulting from coverage ordered pursuant to s. 61.13(1)(b), and any noncovered medical, dental, and prescription medication expenses of the child, shall be added to the basic obligation unless these expenses have been ordered to be separately paid on a percentage basis. After the health insurance costs are added to the basic obligation, any moneys prepaid by a parent for health-related costs for the child or children of this action shall be deducted from that parent’s child support obligation for that child or those children.” Fla Stat. Sec 61.30

Courts have also held that transportation for visitation purposes is a shareable expense.  McWilson v. McWilson, 192 So. 3d 719.  This seems practical for parents who live in different towns but not for saying, “You owe me a quarter tank of gas.”

Other expenses usually have to be shared by agreement or order of court.

In my experience, the best way to agree to an expense is to set a cap on the expenses. If the expense becomes unreasonable (hockey lessons and tournaments are notorious) then the total shareable cost can be capped at something reasonable like $ 5,000 annually.  Any additional expenses, will be borne by the parent who insists the child continue participating in that activity.

Courts are inclined to make expenses shareable if those expenses were agreed to by both parties.  Otherwise, the courts will weigh whether the expense is in the best interests of the child against the capacity of the parties to pay for that expense.

Here in Naples, Florida, the domestic relations judges have seen it all.  Asking for contribution to renting a stable for a horse is just another Tuesday at the Collier County courthouse.  So, you should have your finances thoroughly in order whether you are requesting or objecting to a shared expense for the child.

If you have questions about your child’s expenses and who will pay for them, contact my Naples, Florida family law office for a free consultation to learn more.