Add Ons to a Basic Child Support Obligation

By Staff Writer

In addition to the Basic Child Support obligation, there are “add on” support obligations that parents must pay for their children. Those add on expenses are unreimbursed medical expenses and daycare expenses.

Reasonable day care expenses incurred to allow a custodial parent to work, to seek work, or to allow a custodial parent to enroll in educational programs that will lead to employment will be paid by both parents. The important word on this issue is “reasonable”. Reasonable can include paying a day care provider for a full week of daycare when the children only attend daycare four days. Some day care facilities will not care for children on a part time basis. Others require that the daycare be paid every week, even if the family is away on vacation. These and other requirements of the day care provider can seem harsh. In fact, many non-custodial parents will claim that the custodial parent purposely obtained the most expensive daycare available because of those requirements.

To determine whether daycare expenses are reasonable, the Court will review all of the facts. It may be that the non-custodial parent insisted upon a tax credit for day care expenses. If that occurred, the custodial parent would likely employ a day care facility rather than a private day care provider who cares for the children in their own home, many of who insist upon cash payments. Unfortunately, day care facilities charge more and have more stringent payment rules regarding part time payments or payments for missed days than private in home day care providers have.

Another consideration may be the simple fact that single parents may need to rely upon the “always open” policies of day care facilities. Private daycare providers that care for the children in their own homes take vacations and sick days. A single parent does not always have the other parent to fall back upon when that occurs. As a result, they may decide that their best option is a day care facility.

Many non-custodial parents ask if they can insist that one of their family members, often the child’s grandparent, care for the children. The financial benefits of that arrangement can be tremendous, especially if the grandparent is not seeking compensation. However, if there is a level of acrimony between the parties or other reasons that compel the use of a day care facility, a Court will not Order a custodial parent to agree to the non-custodial parent's requests in selecting a day care provider.

The above examples do not provide a lot of relief for a non-custodial parent struggling to meet all of their own necessary expenses in addition to basic and add on Child Support expenses. There will be circumstances when a Court does deny a request for the level of day care expenses sought. Again, the key to the issue is the word reasonable. The CSSA contains that word and the Courts have an obligation to review all of the facts to assess the reasonableness of the expense incurred.

The obligation to pay day care expenses is based upon an apportionment of the parents’ incomes. If one parent earns 40% of the the combined parental income, that parent will pay 40% of the daycare expense. For example, if the weekly day care expense is $100, that parent will pay $40.

Unreimbursed health care expenses are dealt with in the same manner as childcare expenses. Those expenses are divided in proportion to the parties’ income. Managing unreimbursed health expense can be difficult. A number of issues seem to be recurring and problematic for non-custodial parents in the payment of unreimbursed health expenses. Those issues include the timing of the expenses, notice for extraordinary expenses (usually dental or optical), the reasonableness of the expenses incurred, and notice on a regular basis of the expenses incurred. If a non-custodial parent is struggling to make ends meet, an unexpected $300 dental bill will be a serious problem. If the custodial parent does not provide receipts and seek reimbursement for health expenses for eight months and then demands reimbursement for all of the expense incurred during that time period, the non-custodial parent is put in the same position.

Attorneys and Courts will often include provisions that require notice of extraordinary expenses and a requirement that no reimbursement be paid unless a receipt is provided within a specified time period. Other provisions are equally common, such as a requirement that the non-custodial parent provide reimbursement within thirty days of receiving the receipts.

An ongoing issue in many cases is the need for certain health expenditures. Many agreements and Orders provide for reimbursement for necessary health expense. Questions are often raised about the need for a younger child to obtain contact lens due to the resultant ongoing replacement expenses. Cosmetic dental work can also be objectionable.

A more difficult issue is presented when the non-custodial parent complains that the custodial parent over uses medical services. Parents can and do disagree as to the need for medical intervention on many occasions. While one parent may believe that a child with a cough needs to see the pediatrician, the other parent may believe that a visit is unnecessary because the child simply has a cold. Unfortunately for the party attempting to conserve resources, each parents’ opinion in that circumstance is reasonable and the custodial parent would certainly be within his or her rights to seek medical care and demand a reimbursement for the expense.