How Are Child-Related Expenses Handled in a Divorce?

When a divorce involves minor children, part of the divorce process involves calculating the ongoing financial obligation both parents owe to the children post-divorce. While there is a general support and maintenance obligation owed to the children in any divorce, extra child-related expenses may need to be addressed in your divorce. A Murfreesboro divorce lawyer at Bennett | Michael | Hornsby discusses how those additional child-related expenses are handled in a Tennessee divorce.

Tennessee Child Support Basics

In a Tennessee divorce involving minor children, a base child support amount is calculated using the Tennessee Child Support Guidelines. Those Guidelines use the Income Shares Model, which considers the combined adjusted gross income of both parents and the number of children requiring support. That produces the Basic Child Support Obligation (BSCO). The BCSO is only intended to account for basic needs such as food, shelter, and public education. Certain child-related expenses are considered “additional” expenses and may be handled in several ways. If any of those additional expenses are added to the BSCO, the final support amount will be known as the Adjusted Support Obligation (ASO).

What Are Some Common “Additional” Child-Related Expenses?

Children often have needs and expenses beyond those accounted for in the BCSO. Those additional child-related expenses should be included when determining support in a divorce. Examples of additional child-related expenses include, but are not limited to, the following:

  • Childcare
  • Health insurance premiums
  • Uninsured medical expenses
  • Transportation costs related to parenting time
  • Private school tuition
  • College tuition
  • Extra-curricular activities

Who Pays for Additional Child-Related Expenses?

Exactly how these additional costs are apportioned in a divorce (or a modification after the fact) will depend on several factors – and they are not all treated the same. Some general guidelines include:

    • Health insurance premiums and uninsured expenses. Health insurance premiums are typically paid by the parent with access to the best health insurance coverage. Payment of those premiums is then factored in when determining the ASO. Non-recurring uninsured medical expenses, on the other hand, are not included in the initial ASO. Instead, they are usually apportioned between the parents based on the parent’s share of the combined income. Sometimes, however, one parent will agree to pay up to a specific amount in uninsured expenses each year or one parent will be responsible for paying all the expenses.
    • Childcare. If one parent must pay for childcare to be able to work, the cost of that care is usually added into the initial computation of support and is included in the ASO.
    • Private school tuition. Anything above the cost of public education is considered an “extraordinary educational expense.” If the children have already been attending a private school, the cost of that school will typically be included when determining the ASO and apportioned between the parents accordingly. If the Primary Residential Parent decides to enroll a child in a private school after the divorce is final, a modification to the child support order may be necessary to determine how that additional expense impacts the support obligation.
    • College tuition. In most cases, a parent’s legal obligation to support a child ends when the child turns 18 or graduates from high school. The parents may include a provision in the divorce decree that obligates either or both parents to contribute to the cost of college tuition.
    • Transportation. If either parent moves far enough away that significant expenses will be incurred to facilitate parenting time, those expenses should be addressed through a modification. Who pays the expenses will depend on factors such as which parent moved and why, how often the parent has historically exercised parenting time, and which parent will be responsible for transporting the children.
  • Extra-curricular activities. The older children get, the more expensive extra-curricular activities may be. Playing a competitive sport, for example, can cost thousands of dollars each year and the cost of camps and lessons can add up fast. Whether these expenses are considered part of the BCSO depends on the cost of the activity. A relatively inexpensive local after-school sports program might not trigger an adjustment to the BSO; however, playing that same sport year-round on a competitive travel team likely would warrant an adjustment.

Contact a Murfreesboro Divorce Lawyer

If you have questions or concerns about how child-related expenses are handled in a Tennessee divorce, contact a Murfreesboro divorce lawyer to discuss your options. Contact the team at Bennett | Michael | Hornsby as soon as possible by calling 615-898-1560 to schedule your free appointment.

Dinah Michael