Divorce And The Financial Best Interests Of The Children

Divorce And The Financial Best Interests Of The Children
Karen Sparks

By Karen Sparks | Jan 10th, 2019

Considerations in family life that were mostly taken for granted during marriage are subject to major revisions in divorce, and nowhere is this more evident than the negotiations surrounding current and future financial support for the minor children.

Every attempt should be made to avoid the default model of highly charged conflict, court hearings, emotional outbursts, anxiety, and uncertainty in the mind of yourself and your children by developing a solid understanding of your financial status and how the child support system is generally structured.

Let’s start this knowledge journey by taking a look at some of the basic building blocks that you need to prepare for the process of negotiating child support payments.

Starting Points

  1. Take some time at the onset to create a complete line-item budget of ALL of the expenses, experiences, obligations, requirements etc. that are currently being paid out to support the children of the family. It is important to actually put this number together so that you know where you are financially.
  2. In the process of the divorce negotiations, it will be important to identify all of the income sources available through salary, bonus, commissions, business income and the like. You can’t begin to talk about what should be paid until you know what is contained in the bucket of financial resources.
  3. Be aware that most states consider it the obligation of BOTH parents to contribute to the financial needs and well being of the children of the marriage.
  4. Understand that your jurisdiction may have statutory rules and mathematical algorithms that provide a calculation of the amount to be paid by the non-custodial parent. This amount is generally targeted at taking care of basic needs i.e. for example food, shelter, and clothing and is usually set at an amount to be paid from income sources by the parties.
  5. In most jurisdictions, child support costs can be subject to modification based upon the rise, fall or supplements that affect the finances of the parties over time.

Establishing a protocol

The topics of who, when, why and how of child support costs is inherently challenging and depending on the age of the children, you can count on these discussions continuing and evolving over time. Part of the difficulty is not having a clear mindset on how to realistically prioritize these expenditures.

Think about developing a process for managing the stress of discussions by dividing your proposed expenses/support costs into three buckets: needs, wants, and costs medically or psychologically necessary for the child’s normal function and human interaction.

Please note the following list of the more common topic areas and suggestions for strategy considerations.

Private v. Public School

In order to choose the right bucket for this expense, look at programs offered, ability to continue paying expenses at private school, the viability of public school options, change in school districts, social implications, level of academic support required, grade in school at time of divorce in addition to any other unique considerations.

Classes, Lessons, Athletics

Consider the benefit derived from these activities, are the children currently overscheduled, are these activities medically necessary, is there an unusual aptitude that needs to continue to be supported, is there going to be cooperation in paying costs and getting the children to and from the activities, can other activities be substituted in place of existing ones that provide a benefit and are more cost-effective, do these activities affect custodial time for the other parent etc.

Summer camp

Length of time, cost, travel/equipment expenses, the prior pattern of summer activities, academic courses necessary for performance/advancement.

Post-secondary college/vocational education

These payments are mostly considered a moral obligation of the parties of children who are over the age 18. Major issues concern the availability of financial aid packages, student loan requirements, intended course and duration of academic pursuits, potential college tours, expenses for classes and exams required for the admission process, maintenance and expenses while at college, costs for additional activities such as sorority or fraternity, sports and musical equipment and/or gap year expenses.

READ MORE: 4 Issues to Address In Your Divorce Settlement When Your Child Goes to College

Special Needs/Health Coverage

The amount for these services can be difficult to predict based upon the applied therapies required, the mental, physical or psychological development of the child, the frequency of treatment, the number of children in the family requiring these services, any changes in health plan coverages for the parties etc.

Costs connected with Spiritual/Religious Rites of Passage

If there is an agreement to raise the minor children in a particular faith, attention must be given to the requirements, costs, schedules, study, and fees for special events and the potential celebrations that are connected to these events to budget for the appropriate level of expenses.

Leave room for adjustments

Even the best agreements for child support could become subject to speed bumps. These interruptions are often affected by one party or the other not honoring agreements, adjustments to child custody time percentages, illness/disability of either parent, loss/change of employment, remarriage of either parent in addition to any other unique life circumstances.

The key is to stay observant to changes in the financial landscape so that you can seek the advice of the required professionals for the appropriate action/response and stay out in front of potentially negative consequences.

At the end of the day, the most important objective is to become a strong advocate for your child or children in order to develop a financial plan that is able to sustain their best interests in all areas of their life going forward.

Karen Sparks

Karen Sparks


Karen D. Sparks, CDFA®, J.D. is the principal and owner of Divorce Financial Strategists™. She provides clients with focused divorce analysis and strategies for marital assets.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

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