Joint Cutody - Who pays For Childcare

Joint Custody: Who Pays For Childcare?

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Divorce is always complicated, but it can be even more so when young children are involved. Most parents have a strong desire to make the divorce as smooth and painless as possible for children. To do that, many choose to enter into joint custody arrangements, allowing the kids spend time with each parent.

During a divorce negotiation involving joint custody, the two parents may be required to set guidelines on all of these issues. They might need to determine when the children see each parent and how the children will get to and from each parent’s house. There is also the matter of financial support for the children. The care of a child involves a number of expenses, including food, clothing, extracurricular fees, tuition and more, and an arrangement that splits custody evenly does not mean that the costs will be split evenly as well.

Understanding Child Support

Even in joint custody arrangements, one parent is usually designated as the custodial parent. It is nearly impossible for kids to spend exactly 50 percent of their time with each parent, even if both parents make an effort to split the time evenly. Child support is meant to help the custodial parent provide basic care for the children. It is expected that the child support payments be used to buy food, school supplies, clothing and other items that the child may need to live a comfortable lifestyle.

In many divorces, there is a sizable income gap between the two parents. If the custodial parent makes significantly less than the non-custodial parent, then that person may have a much more difficult time financially supporting the children. Child support is used to resolve this disparity. Most states have formulas that help determine how much support a non-custodial parent should pay to the custodial parent. The formulas usually consider things like each parent’s income, the amount of time the kids spend with each parent and other costs that each parent pays, like health insurance or daycare.

Beyond Child Support: Other Childcare Expenses

Many parents mistakenly believe that child support should cover all childcare obligations. This usually is not the case. Again, child support is meant to afford the child a comfortable lifestyle. There could be plenty of things that the child needs that would not be covered by child support. Some of those include the following:

  • Daycare and babysitting: One or both parents may need professional childcare so they can go to work or look for work. Many non-custodial parents are surprised to learn that they have to contribute to this cost above and beyond child support payments. However, many courts may mandate that both parents contribute to daycare bills.
  • Extracurricular activities: It may not be absolutely necessary for a child to be on the football team or take piano lessons after school. However, it is normal for both parents to contribute to these costs even if one is paying child support.
  • Medical expenses: Parents should determine which one will carry the children on their health insurance. That cost would likely be considered when determining child support payments. However, out-of-pocket medical expenses are hard to predict. A child may need a costly operation, therapy or braces. Both parents, regardless of child support payment arrangements, may share those costs.

Parents are best advised to formulate a childcare plan long before these expenses inevitably arise. Parents can make life easier for themselves and their children by agreeing to what share of the costs each parent will pay and how they will resolve differences of opinions regarding the expenses.

Childcare and Taxes

The other important thing to consider when developing a joint custody childcare plan is the tax ramifications of childcare expenses. There are two important tax advantages related to childcare. Parents should be sure to consider these tax consequences when negotiating their childcare plan.

The first is the dependent deduction. Only the custodial parent can claim the dependent deduction. However, it is possible for the custodial parent to waive his or her right to the deduction so that the non-custodial parent can claim it. This may done if both parents agree that the non-custodial parent has paid for a significant portion of childcare expenses. The second major tax advantage is the childcare tax credit. This is a credit for up to $3,000 for one child and up to $6,000 for multiple children for paid childcare so that one or both parents can work. It is only available for children under the age of 13. Only the custodial parent can claim the childcare tax credit. Unfortunately, there is no mechanism to waive it or transfer it. 

If you have questions about child care and daycare expenses under your state’s law, find a experienced local divorce lawyer today to help you navigate the child support process.

A comprehensive list of all available child-related tax deductions and credits parents (divorced or not) might be able to take advantage of to help pay the bills. 
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