How to Handle Parenting Expenses After Divorce
Divorce can add extra stress and pressure on parents who want to split the expenses of raising children. It is crucial to discuss how you will divide expenses and continue to communicate after the divorce. Consider these strategies:
1. Add parenting expenses to the divorce agreement. You may want to allocate certain expenses in the agreement, so both of you know what to expect. Your lawyers or the judge can outline how you will handle expenses such as school tuition, school lunches, medical bills or insurance, clothing, shoes, books, toys, and other items.
2. Continue to communicate with your ex. Being a parent is a life-long commitment that does not end after divorce. Divorce can make communication with your former partner a challenge, but it is important to communicate with your ex about parenting expenses to ensure your children continue to receive the care they need.
3. Create a system for emergency expenses. Emergency parenting expenses can appear at any time. Did your children suddenly remember they need extra money for summer camp? What about emergency medical visits that are not fully covered by insurance? Have a system in place that allows you to handle emergency expenses with ease. Know ahead of time which one of you will take care of the expenses, or if you will split them evenly.
4. Start an expense fund to cover extras. If you create an expense fund and contribute whatever you can each week, even if it is a small amount, you will be more likely to be able to cover the small expenses that come up. It is common for parents to complain about paying child support or alimony. However, children are sensitive and can be hurt by these types of complaints. Even if finances are tight, encourage your children to let you know whenever they need something for school or elsewhere. Hopefully, your expense fund will cover it without putting extra stress on your finances.
5. Understand the extra costs of a separate household. If you have joint custody of your children, be prepared for the extra costs. Children who must split their time between two households need items in both. Your expenses might include a new bed, desk, chairs, and other furniture for your child. You may also need to purchase toys and other items to make the child feel at home in the new location. Expect hidden expenses from time to time, such as the need for new lamps or pencils. 6. Avoid trying to outdo the other parent. You cannot buy your child’s love, so it is a waste of time and money to try to outdo your ex when it comes to gifts. Your children can still appreciate boundaries and the occasional present. Avoid creating a competition with your former partner by buying expensive gifts for the children. Instead, design a parenting budget that includes gifts and stick with whatever amounts work for you. Children are expensive at all stages and ages, and divorce can add a great deal of stress to the financial situation. Planning for your parenting expenses ahead of time can save you a lot of grief.
Leslie Welch, CDC, LOA
Certified Divorce & Life Coach