By Matt Allen
You’ve arrived home from work and as you sort through the day’s mail you see there’s a note from your ex-wife asking for payment for Tommy’s new baseball uniforms and asking you to pick up some new clothes and toiletry items for Susie when she comes to stay with you next weekend.
But wait a minute; you’ve paid your child support this month and on time like you have every other payment.
With all the money you are paying for child support, why are you being asked to provide additional support to cover these other expenses?
It begs the question, what does child support cover?
Obviously the laws determining what child expenses are not included in the direct child support vary by state, but in general, extracurricular activities, uninsured medical expenses and educational expenses are NOT included in the basic child support amount unless specifically included in a settlement agreement, according to Cordell & Cordell partner Spencer Williams.
He said child support generally covers food, clothing and shelter-type expenses.
How Much Should You Be Paying?State Child Support Calculators
But when you’re asked to cover expenses you think child support should be covering, you need to think of child support differently, said Michigan Divorce Lawyer Jennifer Paine, another Cordell & Cordell attorney.
"Parents tend to think about child support as a one-way street: I pay support to you for our children, and you are responsible for using that money to support our children," Paine said. "Most state child support schemes, however, calculate child support as a two-way street: you pay support to me and I to you, and we pool the support and each take a share."
While your child support payments are generally a set amount, the calculations used to reach that amount are largely guesstimates of the amount of support a child needs to needs to sustain a standard of living near the marital standard of living, according to Paine.
So the support you pay is only the share your kids need while they are with your ex-wife. You are still responsible for support during your time, just as your ex-wife is still responsible for support during her time.
"As my father said after my sister crashed our first car in high school, you can never know completely when and how much your children will cost you," Paine said.
Paine warns to be cautious, though. Remember to track your spending during your parenting time if you believe your ex-wife is not using the support you pay to actually support your kids.
Keep a journal of what your kids bring to parenting time and what they end up needing from you during parenting time. Keep receipts of what you buy and request reimbursement for an amount you think is reasonable.
Are you constantly spending a lot of money on everyday items your kids have such as toothpaste or underwear?
"If you are purchasing ordinary items, this may be a sign that your ex-wife is not using the support properly," Paine said. "You may have reason to investigate and to motion your court for contempt against her for diverting support."
When you meet with your attorney, be sure to bring your original divorce decree to show what factors the court took into consideration when setting the original support amount.
For more information on child support laws and how much you should be paying, contact Cordell & Cordell to speak to an attorney in your state.