Child Expenses and Reimbursements

There are some expenses for your children that are usually shared evenly between their parents. While many costs will be shared by you and the other parent by agreement, the law has four main categories: 1) healthcare and 2) childcare costs, which are “mandatory”, and 3) education costs and 4) travel expenses for visitation, which are “additional”.

We’ll go into more detail about each of these categories in this article, but it is important to remember that, while the law does provide guidelines, every family’s situation is different. There are a number of factors that should be considered: each party’s ability to pay costs, how the parents make decisions about child care, schools, or medical care, and the degree to which a particular cost may be considered “reasonable” or “necessary”. Typically, things like clothing and toys aren’t usually considered reimbursable expenses, and the law doesn’t really address these kinds of costs. However, you and your STBX can agree to share these costs, or any other costs, however you choose. Let’s explain more below:

Mandatory Child Support Add-Ons

Health care costs that are not insured: this section includes costs related to the children’s health, including medical care, dental care, and vision. The costs need to be “reasonable”which can mean many things. Some things are easy to decide: if your child is in immediate need of urgent medical care, that is almost categorically considered to be both reasonable and necessary. There are some kinds of treatments and expenses that some people might consider elective depending on the situation, such as therapy or orthodontia that can be put off another year or two. Even for those treatments that are necessary, the costs themselves can still be reasonable or unreasonable, such as if you want to take your child to a doctor who is not covered by his or her insurance.

Child care costs related to employment: this section as defined by law only includes the costs of childcare while you are at work. This can include daycare, preschool, nannies, or babysitters, depending on your situation. This also covers childcare so you can work towards furthering your career in a professional training or educational program. This does not include childcare when you are not at work; however, that doesn’t mean that childcare at other times can’t be shared, it just means that it would be more difficult to convince the court that it should be shared, if it came to that.

Additional Child Support Add-Ons

Costs related to the education or special needs of the children: this includes school tuition, extracurricular programs, camps, sports, music lessons, tutoring, and the like.

Travel expenses for visitation: this usually only plays a considerable factor when the parents live far away from each other and the child needs to travel by plane or train to see the other parent.

How do you decide how much of a percentage that each of you pay?:

Usually these expenses are shared 50/50. Depending on your situation, you might want to divide expenses a different way. For example, if there’s something (like your kid getting braces) that is important enough to one parent that they are willing to pay more than 50%.

Reimbursement methods:

California family law sets forth a straight-forward way to handle the requests and payments of expense reimbursements. The parent who pays for the expense must give the other parent an accounting and physical documentation showing that they paid the expense (such as an invoice, receipt, or check copy) within 30 days of the date that the expense is paid. After notice is given, the other parent has 30 days to make their reimbursement payment. If you disagree with a charge, you should object as soon as possible. However: if you dispute a charge, you still have to make the payment within 30 days unless you and your partner reach another agreement or the court makes another order. If you dispute a charge and cannot resolve it between yourselves, the court can order a parent to pay back a reimbursement payment they received, but they will only do so if you’ve complied with the 30 day requirement.

In conclusion:

Try and come to a detailed agreement and work out your priorities to avoid future arguments.
To the extent that you can, do your best to work with your STBX to plan your child’s activities together.
Make sure to keep a paper trail: whenever possible, pay for your child's expenses with a check, credit card, or debit card, or ask for a cash receipt. Send reimbursement requests to your STBX by email so you have a record.
Stay organized: get into a monthly habit of exchanging reimbursement requests or payments. It may be helpful to do it at the same time as you pay other bills so you don’t forget.