What Does Child Support Cover?

By Cindy Hill

Child support payments are a ubiquitous feature of divorce decrees for parents of minor children. Non-custodial parents often wonder what they're paying for when they write a check for child support each month. The primary purpose of child support is not to equalize the income of the two former spouses, but rather to provide the children with the same level of economic support they would have had if their parents had remained together.

Basic Needs

Child support payment amounts are set by guidelines established by the laws of each state. Basic child support, calculated based on the intersection of custody time and spousal income, is intended to cover only basic living expenses, such as clothing, shelter and food. Despite the increasing need for children to participate in extracurricular activities, team and social clubs to acquire the skills and character necessary to enter college and the workplace, basic child support awards are not designed to cover these expenses.

Additional Support

Courts in most states increase the basic child support obligation to include expenses that are increasingly becoming necessary to allow the custodial parent to work and to cover health care costs for the child. These increased orders may include payments for work-related daycare, health insurance premiums and uninsured medical expenses. These costs are calculated outside of the basic child support guideline calculations because the cost of daycare facilities and the necessary uninsured medical costs will vary widely from family to family, depending on location and circumstances.

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Extraordinary Expenses

Entertainment expenses, including music lessons, summer camps, sports team fees and equipment, pets and school field trips, are not ordinarily included in the basic child support payment. Divorce courts may order that the non-custodial parent provide extra payments for these extraordinary expenses if the parties' resources allow the payments to be made. When the non-custodial parent has limited economic means, family law courts often hold that the custodial parent must make do with the basic child support payment to cover the child's extracurricular and personal growth activities.

Parenting Time

Parenting time, or custody, has a significant effect on the amount of the child support payment order. When non-custodial parents have considerable visitation time, they are also contributing to the child's shelter and food during these times, so this decreases child support obligations in most states. Other factors taken into consideration when calculating child support include whether the non-custodial parent is making child support payments for other children, or has additional minor children in his household.

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How to Split Expenses for Kids in a Divorce

References

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What Is Child Support Technically Supposed to Be Used for in Texas?

Child support is money paid by a noncustodial parent to cover a portion of the child's expenses. Texas child support payments are based on the income of the noncustodial parent, but a custodial parent may seek an increase in child support to cover some things, such as extraordinary medical expenses. Child support can be used to cover a number of expenses, and the custodial parent has broad discretion in determining how to use child support.

Facts on Child Support & Visitation Laws in Oklahoma

Oklahoma, like all states, uses the "best interests of the child" standard in making custody and visitation determinations. However, this standard can be quite vague and lead to different results in similar cases depending on the judge, lawyers and other factors not related to a child's best interests. Consequently, Oklahoma has developed a set of visitation recommendations according to age and parental circumstances designed to help judges make uniform decisions that benefit children. Oklahoma also has standard rules for child support that make it easier for parents to calculate the child support they will likely pay.

What Happens to Child Support & Alimony When a Divorcee Remarries?

Approximately half of all Americans remarry within five years of divorce, according to U.S. Census Bureau in a 2006 report. Those with children carry child support issues with them into their new relationships. Courts do not always award alimony, especially in short-term marriages, but some spouses deal with this baggage entering into a new marriage as well. Generally, the spouse paying alimony or child support is obligated long-term, even if he remarries. The remarriage of the spouse receiving child support or alimony is often more of a factor in support modifications and terminations.

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