What can child support payments be used for?
Child support can be one of the most contentious parts of negotiations in a divorce settlement. Confusion about what one party’s child support payment covers can add to the misunderstanding. The goal of child support is to ensure that, between the financial abilities of both parents, the items and services a child requires to have a normal, healthy upbringing are accounted for and paid.
In general, child support agreements can be drawn up to cover almost any expenses that arise with minor dependents and can even pay for certain items in their first few years of adulthood.
Basic needs child support payments cover
Certain baseline needs of children are usually included as part of a child support agreement, including:
- Housing – House or apartment rentals and mortgages while the children are living with one parent.
- Food – Including groceries and reasonable dining expenses.
- Clothing – All articles of clothing, including everyday shoes, coats, and seasonal wear, can be covered by child support.
Additional expenses that child support may cover
There’s a lot more involved with raising a child than just covering food, shelter, and necessities. Depending upon the agreement, child support can also cover:
- School. Everything from private tuition fees, parent association charges, after school daycare, or school-sponsored extra-curricular activities may be covered by child support. The agreement may also cover college tuition after children graduate from high school.
- Entertainment. Toys and books are crucial to a child’s development and are considered essential parts of the budget a child support agreement covers. But it can also cover reasonable expenses from other non-essential forms of entertainment, including movies, theme parks, games, or trips.
- Medical expenses. Most children should be covered by one or both parents’ medical insurance plans. But uninsured medical expenses may also be covered by a child support agreement, especially if the existing plans don’t have provisions for dental procedures or vision.
- Travel. If a young child needs public transportation, buses, trains, planes, or other means to get from one place to another, child support can be used to pay for their travel.
- Auto expenses. If a dependent is old enough to drive, child support may be used to cover the cost of their own vehicle, along with the accompanying insurance and repair expenses.
Although child support technically covers the needs of kids before the age of 18, some other provisions that arise in their first few years of legal adulthood—such as health insurance until age 26—can also be covered by a child support agreement.
What does child support not cover?
Strictly speaking, there’s no official regulation that dictates what child support payments cannot cover. There’s no legal stipulation that forbids a certain expense from coverage by child support.
However, some of the expenses mentioned in the previous section may be excluded if the parties agree—so it’s important to understand exactly what expenses one party’s child support payments will and will not be allowed. Courts do not have to mandate payments for certain needs, such as college visits, car insurance, computer equipment, or extra-curricular activities.
All parties in a divorce agreement can avoid surprises by being fully versed in what child support arrangements will pay for, and what they’ll exclude.
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