One of the common questions we hear from clients is: “Can I be ordered to pay for child-related expenses in addition to my child support obligation?
The simple answer is: It depends.
Understanding the purpose of child support and what it should be used for is the key. Of course, most people are familiar with the term “child support”. However, not everyone truly understands the meaning of legal child support and its purpose.
What is the Purpose of Child Support?
When you think of child support think of the child’s basic necessities. The intent of child support is to cover the cost and expenses associated with the needs of your child. So what does a child “need”? A child needs to eat, needs a place to sleep, needs to have clothes and shoes, etc.
Then remember that both parents have a duty to financially support their child. In Illinois, parents are legally responsible for their child’s reasonable and necessary physical, mental, and emotional health needs. This even includes basic ordinary out-of-pocket medical expenses.
Many times, people are upset because they believe that their child support payments are not being used to support the child. But you have to remember this – if the parent receiving the child support is meeting the child’s needs, then there isn’t an issue. As the parent paying the child support, you have little control, if any, regarding the spending habits of the other parent as long as the child’s basic needs are being met.
What About Additional Expenses for a Child Beyond the Basic Necessities?
Now we all know that raising children and their needs require more than just covering basic necessities. There are many possible additional expenses for a child on top of the basic necessity expenses.
“Child Care” Expenses
Think about a young child who is not old enough to be in school yet. If both parents are working, who is watching the child? It is very helpful to have a friend or family member who is available to watch the child while you are at work, but not everyone has that option. The vast majority of parents must place their children in the care of others like babysitters and daycare workers. Daycare can be expensive.
What do you do if you cannot afford to pay these additional expenses on your own?
First, understand what this term encompasses and how the court views these expenses.
What Qualifies as “Child Care” Expenses?
The term “child care expenses” includes the following:
- Fees for daycare
- Fees for after-school and before-school care
- Fees for Camps when school is not in session
- Deposits for securing placement in a child care program
Court Ordered Payment of Child Care Expenses
A parent may ask the court to enter an order requiring the other parent to contribute to child care expenses, on top of the basic child support obligation. The court, in its discretion, can order either or both parents owing a duty of support to contribute to reasonable child care expenses.
”Reasonable” Child Care Expenses
Child care expenses must be reasonable. Reasonable child care expenses are those expenses that are reasonably necessary to enable a parent to:
- be employed,
- attend educational or vocational training programs to improve their employment, or
- search for employment.
When the court decides to enter an order requiring one or both parents to contribute to child care expenses, the court will prorate the reasonable expenses in proportion to each parent’s percentage share of their combined net income.
Orders for child care expenses, as well as child support can be modified upon a showing of a substantial change in circumstances.
Contribution to Extracurricular Activities
Children of all ages participate in what we refer to as “extra-curricular” activities. A young child may be in tumbling. An older child may be on a traveling baseball team. Maybe a child takes piano lessons. I am sure you can think of an example that fits your life.
Educational Expenses and Child Support
Once a child starts school they will likely have expenses related to their education. This is when we think of registration fees, books fees, lunch fees, and the list goes on and on.
The court can order a parent to contribute towards the reasonable school and extracurricular activity expenses incurred for a child if those expenses are intended to enhance the educational, athletic, social, or cultural development of the child.
Contribution to Unreimbursed Medical Expenses
And of course, unfortunately, there is always the possibility of a child having uncovered medical expenses. Not everyone’s insurance covers everything- who pays for that? The court can order a parent to pay towards unreimbursed medical, dental, orthodontic, or vision expenses and any prescription medication for the child not covered under the child’s health insurance.
The bottom line is that the court can entertain a request for the other parent to contribute to these types of expenses. To start, the court will look at the income of both parents. In Illinois, We see a lot of orders with 50/50 contribution to the above-mentioned expenses, however, we also see many orders splitting expenses 70/30, 60/40, 55/45, etc. There are even cases where a parent is ordered to be responsible for 100% of the expenses.
Child Support Orders – Every Case is Different
If you’re wondering whether you or your ex can be ordered to contribute to additional expenses for your child, whether they be expenses for child care, extracurricular activities or education-related activities, it depends upon your child’s unique situation, Every case has a different set of facts, so just because you hear that your friend’s cousin’s case ended a certain way does not mean that you will have the same outcome, even if you believe you have very similar facts. In the end, the court does what they believe is in the best interest of the child.
If you have questions about child support or another family law issue contact Nichol Broshous or email Anderson & Boback to schedule a confidential consultation to learn more about payment of child-related expenses and the child support obligation.