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Wisconsin Family Law Articles
Post-divorce child expenses

What to do about unexpected child-related expenses after the divorce is final

Paying for your children’s expenses after divorce can be hard, especially when unanticipated costs arise. It can be frustrating to spend months developing a parenting plan and getting child support in place only to find that what you have to work with is not enough. Unexpected child-related expenses can be challenging, but when parents work together, there are ways to handle the problem and meet your child's needs.

Your parenting plan should include provisions regarding child support and each parent’s financial responsibilities for their child’s requirements. However, kids don’t exist according to a formula. As such, it is unlikely that your plan will address every possible expense which could come up. When unanticipated costs arise, parents can have serious differences about what is reasonable and necessary.

Communication

When a divorce is relatively amicable, parents can usually discuss issues related to their children rationally. The more clearly you can communicate about an expense, the more likely it will be that you can work out any disagreements. For example, parents often will include parenting plan terms such as being equally liable for any out-of-pocket medical costs.  This is pretty straight forward when the child breaks a bone or has to see a specialist for care. However, when one parent thinks the child needs a therapist or wants to send them to a practitioner who is not covered by insurance, the other may object. If possible, sit down and talk about what is going on and how to best address your child’s needs before taking action. Getting on the same page as the other parent about your child’s treatment beforehand can help you avoid having to go back to court to decide if you both have to pay.

Compromise

At the time you divorced, your child may not have been involved in a team sport or other extracurricular activity, but now needs money for things such as traveling to competitions or paying for uniforms. There could also be interest in pricey summer camps. The cost of these activities can add up especially when you don't always have enough notice to budget for them. While figuring out how you and your ex can fairly divide these expenses can cause tension, it is well worth it to devote time to reaching a compromise. Working towards an agreement can help support your child’s interest without unfairly burdening either one of you.

Keep Money Talk Away from the Kids

The last thing you want is for your children to hear you and your ex disagree about money for them.  A child who hears comments such as, "I would pay for your band instrument but I have to pay child support to your mom", is getting a message that he or she is the source of conflict between you and you resent paying for their needs. If you and your ex disagree or you feel child support is unfair, keep your opinion away from your children.

After divorce, working with your ex to manage the inevitable unexpected expenses which will arise while raising children can be stressful. Sometimes, just being able to get to a place where you can agree as to what is fair and reasonable is half the battle.

Attorney and mediator Karyn Youso has experience helping clients prepare for and problem-solve their post-divorce issues. Contact us today to schedule a consultation, and let us take a “first look” at your circumstances.