Additional Child Support for Out-of-Pocket Expenses
In addition to the payment of regular, guideline child support, under Illinois law the court has the authority to order a non-custodial parent to pay additional amounts for expenses which are in the nature of child support. A court can and often does order parents to pay additional amounts for health needs not covered by insurance, child care, extra-curricular activity expenses, and education expenses as well. The law does not require the court to make the specific findings required when it imposes an upward deviation from child support guidelines.
In most cases, a court will order a supporting parent to either provide medical insurance for the minor children, or pay the custodial parent an extra amount to cover the cost of maintaining medical insurance for the children. In most cases, the court will also require the supporting parent to pay a portion of the children’s out-of-pocket medical, dental, and vision expenses, to the extent those expenses are not covered by insurance. These general rules apply even in cases where the supporting parent has no say in the medical, educational, and extra-curricular decision making process.
The definition of medical expenses is broad in scope. It may include co-pays, prescription costs, and out-of-pocket expenses for wellness, special care, and emergency treatment. Medical expenses may also extend to orthodontia, vision, and mental health services such as counseling. In short, the way in which a child support order is drafted can have an enormous impact upon the parties’ long-term financial obligations. Moreover, setting forth the parties’ obligations clearly can often obviate the need to return to court in the future. Hiring a knowledgeable, skilled family law attorney to represent you when child support is being set can make a big difference.
If the supporting parent provides health insurance for the minor child, the non-supporting parent may have difficulty accessing information with the insurance provider necessary for the child’s care. In such cases, the custodial parent may seek the entry of a Qualified Medical Child Support Order to obtain complete access to benefit information.
Childcare expenses are another common support-related expense that courts will typically order a supporting parent to pay a portion of. A well-written order will specify and define exactly what “childcare” means, and will also specify the manner in which payments are to be made.
For example, legal disputes frequently arise in cases where a family member or friend provides care for a child. Often, the child care provider is paid in cash, does not report the payments as income, or does not provide receipts to the parents for payments made. In such cases, the court may have to decide whether the supporting parent should pay a portion of the child care expenses, and if so, how much. The court may also have to decide if the amount being charged for child care is reasonable in light of the child’s needs and the parties’ financial circumstances.
Other common child care expense issues include:
- Whether for the obligation to pay for a portion of childcare expenses should be limited to periods in which the non-supporting parent is working;
- Whether the supporting parent should be given the option to provide care for the child before he or she is required to contribute to childcare costs for a given period (i.e., the “right of first refusal”);
- Whether the childcare payments should be made directly to the daycare provider, or whether one party should pay for the child care and be reimbursed by the other;
- What constitutes valid proof that childcare services were necessary, or that the parent was working during that period?
The importance of a clearly-articulated, well-written order regarding child care expenses cannot be overstated. The experienced family law attorneys at Kollias & Giese, P.C., are ready, willing, and able to assist you.
Some courts may order parents to contribute to payment of school expenses or extra-curricular activity expenses. School expenses may include private school tuition and expenses, or may be limited to public school costs. A well-written order should define whether school expenses are limited to mandatory items (such as registration, books, supplies, etc.), or whether optional expenses (such as pictures, field trips, or yearbook fees) are also included.
Payment of extra-curricular expenses can often be a major area of dispute among divorcing and separated parents. Commonly, orders only require parents to share the costs of activities which are “agreed upon.” However, such orders can lead to numerous disputes in the future. For example, a parent might simply unreasonably withhold his or her consent to the child’s participation in a particular activity. In other cases, a parent might claim, after the fact, that he or she never agreed to the child’s participation in an activity the child was previously enrolled in. Sometimes, agreement is altogether impossible when parents refuse to communicate with one another before enrolling the child in an activity. In order to address these issues, some judges have begun requiring the parents to pay a portion of all extra-curricular activity expenses, up to a certain limit per month or per year.
In determining how much each parent should pay for the above expenses, the court may consider the income and assets of each parent, as well as any other factor the court deems appropriate. As a result, the amount the court determines to be fair is not necessarily a 50/50 division in each case.
The long-term effects of an order to contribute to support-related expenses can be substantial. To ensure that you that you understand your rights and obligations, you should consult with a knowledgeable family law attorney at Kollias & Giese, P.C.