What is the Purpose of Child Support?

Parents often are confused about what their child support obligation is supposed to cover.   Like many things that involve the legal system, there is no clear or definitive answer to this question.  There is agreement, however, among divorce professionals, that child support should cover more than just the bare necessities.  It is meant to be applied more broadly and almost always includes school and extracurricular fees for certain activities, some medical expenses, entertainment, etc.

When working on an agreement with regard to child support, courts do not like to get involved in micromanaging how child support is spent.  The courts assume that the parent receiving child support is paying for expenses which are necessary to care for the child  (unless, of course, there is evidence of neglect).

Below is a list of the major categories that most divorce professionals agree should be either covered by the monthly child support amount or otherwise factored into the agreement :

Basic Necessities – Food, Clothing, Shelter (a non mathematical portion of the rent/mortgage, utilities, clothing & grocery bill)

Health Insurance – Usually factored into the child support guidelines

Out of Pocket Medical Expenses – Usually each party is expected to pay a percentage (often  pro rata* share)

School Fees, Supplies, Related Costs

Work Related Childcare – Usually each party is expected to pay a percentage (often pro rata* share)

Transportation/Travel – Basic transportation and travel costs (gasoline, car payments, insurance, etc)

Entertainment – Computers, Camping, Movies, Amusement Parks, etc.

Extracurricular Activities – How this is paid for varies widely.  Often times, each party is expected to pay a percentage

*Pro rata share refers to each party’s respective percentage share of the parties combined gross incomes.

Posted by Kristina Duncan Hoeges, Freelance Paralegal


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