Parenting, even under the best of circumstances, has its challenges. Co-parenting from separate households adds several layers of complexity to the process. Co-parenting and dealing with financial issues relating to the kids can be even harder. Income usually doesn’t go up after divorce, but expenses usually do. There is the cost of maintaining two households, which includes the cost of having a room and furnishings for the children at each home. Then, there are the child’s usual expenses, including medical expenses, extracurricular activities, lessons and tutoring, and perhaps private school tuition. It’s likely that all of these expenses are not covered by child support alone. You and your co-parent may have agreed to split the cost of many child-related expenses. Let’s talk about tracking and reimbursing expenses for your children after divorce.
PLANNING FOR SUCCESS WITH CHILD-RELATED EXPENSES
If you have minor children, it is virtually certain that you will either be paying or receiving child support. Child support is usually paid from the higher-earning parent to the lower-earning one to help cover the expenses of raising a child. Not all of a child’s needs will be covered by child support, of course. For instance, you and your child’s other parent may want your child to take violin lessons or attend summer camp. There may be medical costs not covered by insurance, which need very specific documentation. Planning in advance how you will manage expenses outside of child support will reduce frustration for both of you.
The best time to decide how to deal with child-related expenses is actually before you are divorced. What expenses are to be shared? How are they to be documented? How and when will they be reimbursed? It may seem like a hassle to work these details out in advance, but you will be glad to have the clarity when a potential conflict arises. Your divorce attorney can craft expense-sharing language for your settlement agreement that is specific enough to avoid disputes, but flexible enough to meet your needs and accommodate unforeseen events.
Even if your divorce is already final, however, there are things that you can do to make the process of tracking and reimbursing expenses for your children easier.
USING TECHNOLOGY TO TRACK AND REIMBURSE EXPENSES FOR YOUR CHILDREN
There are a number of websites and apps that make it much easier to keep track of your child-related expenses, to communicate them to your co-parent, and to get reimbursed. These apps allow you to automate the process of tracking expenses. You can upload receipts, calculate how much each of you owes, and make payments to one another.
Why use an app or website rather than dealing directly with the other parent or going through your attorneys? It can save time, stress, and money. When you upload receipts or create expense reports, they are instantly available to the other parent. Depending on the service you use, you may be able to see when the other parent has received a communication or payment. Most services also allow parents to make payments directly to each other through the app while keeping their own banking information private. No more wondering if a receipt or check really got lost in the mail—communications and payments are managed in minutes.
If you have a contentious relationship with your ex, as many people do, getting everyone on the same (digital) page about what was spent and what is owed can reduce conflict. Further, being able to communicate without having to be face to face allows you to limit your communication to “just the facts,” which keeps you from getting sidetracked into a fight about something else. Also, when the facts are plain and well-documented, there is less likely to be a dispute that needs resolution in court.
If you do end up in court, your co-parenting app can help to prove your case. Many of the available apps don’t allow a communication to be deleted after it gets entered, and some allow you to make your records available to attorneys, judges, or other professionals involved in your case. Another benefit of this: knowing that you can’t take back something posted in anger, and that your judge might see it, can also help to keep communications civil.
Our Family Wizard is one of the best known and most popular co-parenting apps. In the wake of its success, many others have sprouted up. An experienced family law attorney can suggest a co-parenting app that will meet your needs for tracking and reimbursing expenses for your children after divorce. If you would like to learn more about tracking child-related expenses, contact attorney Antonio Jimenez to schedule a consultation.