Children cost a lot of money. The average middle-income household should expect to spend more than $230,000 on raising their child. That’s around $13,000 per year.
After a divorce, covering expenses for kids gets tricky. The expenses cost the same amount, but the means of paying for them can be difficult to determine.
How can you start a dialogue with your ex about covering them? How should you take care of your own finances? What expenses should you be mindful of, and how do they change over time?
Answer these questions, and you can support your child into their adulthood. Here is your quick guide.
Talk to Your Co-Parent About Expenses for Kids
Talking about money can be exhausting. Make sure you take a break after you separate from your ex. Take a few weeks to rebuild your confidence so you can negotiate on a strong footing.
When you feel rejuvenated, you can turn to your finances. Go to a financial advisor and accountant and talk about sharing expenses with your ex.
Get a list of the expenses you should expect to cover. Figure out the ways that you are going to cover your payments on your end.
Then turn to your ex. You can talk to them by yourself, through an intermediary, or with lawyers. But you should engage with them about your mutual expenses.
Tell them what things you need to cover and how you will cover them. This can encourage your ex to think about the ways they will pay. This also establishes trust so you can continue the conversation.
Most co-parents split the expenses 50-50. If you both have similar amounts of money, you can do this.
But you are not required to. If one co-parent earns more than the other, they can pay for more.
You can match the payments to your custody schedule. If you pursue an 80/20 custody schedule, the parent with primary custody can pay 80 percent of the expenses.
If you decide on an inequal payment approach, you should not tell your child about your decision. It can lead them to believe that the parent who is paying less does not love them.
Keep the conversation focused on expenses for your kids. Talk about alimony and living arrangements on another occasion.
Your conversation can touch upon child support. If a court is requiring one co-parent to pay, talk about where the money should go.
Develop a Communication System
When you have decided on a payment approach, you next need to come up with a schedule. Figure out when you need to pay for things, including yearly.
It would be best if you gave each other reminders on when payments are due. If one of you cannot expect to cover something, you should tell the other that.
Whenever possible, the two of you should talk face to face. This makes for a direct line of communication that avoids confusion.
If the two of you are living far apart, you can talk over the phone. Try to avoid text messages or emails unless you are sending over documents.
You can download a co-parenting app. The app has a calendar that you can schedule your payments with. You can also track your finances, including when shared expenses are pending.
Take Care of Your Finances
You have your own expenses to cover. After a divorce, you may need to pay more money than you did previously. You may need to cover the cost of a new house and food.
Make sure you are taking care of yourself. If you run out of money, you won’t be able to pay for your child.
Write down a personal budget that itemizes each cost you need to pay for. Look at what revenue streams you have and see where the money should go first. If you are spending money on something useless, you should stop.
When you have multiple debts, develop a way to pay them off. You can adopt the debt avalanche method. This involves making minimum payments on your debts and throwing extra money on the ones with high interest.
Consider starting an expense fund. Each of you can add a little money into it each week. This gives you a safety net that lets you pay for sudden costs.
Figure out what you will use the fund for. You can cover a regular expense in addition to an unexpected one. You can open one with your ex or on your own.
You may decide to move in with someone else. Your new partner can cover some of your personal expenses.
But you should be the one to pay for your child. It is your responsibility to make sure your child’s needs are met.
Your new partner can pay if they want to, but you should not expect them to do so. They should not expect anything in return for their payments.
How to Cover Shared Expenses
The more you break down your individual expenses, the easier it will be to cover them. Each type of expense has its own trajectory. Some cost more through time, while others are stable.
Keep in mind that any discussion of expenses involves hypothetical estimates. You have to track how your finances are doing in real-time and adjust your payment approach.
29 percent of the money you spend on your child will go toward housing. This makes it the single-biggest shared expense.
How you compensate for housing depends on what your living arrangements are. If one of you owns a house with a mortgage, the owner should take the lead in covering the mortgage. The other parent can pay if interest rates are substantial.
If both of you pay weekly rent, each of you can focus on your own rent payments. You can help your ex when they need a little help. You should step in if they are facing foreclosure.
Your child should have their own bed wherever they live. If possible, they should have their own bedroom in both residences.
This means that you may have to buy things for it like a drawer or nightstand. If that is the case, you should expect to pay for those yourself.
Both of you should pay equal amounts to your child’s health insurance. Their insurance should cover most costs, including doctor’s visits.
No insurance plan is comprehensive. Have a conversation with your ex about how you will pay for additional medical services.
You must develop a plan for this well in advance. Your child can develop a medical condition without warning. Set money aside in your personal or expense account.
If your child has a chronic health condition, you should expect to pay more. Adjust your personal budget, so you spend less on yourself. If they have a condition that might deteriorate, talk about ways you can cover future costs.
Medical expenses include mental health expenses. If your child needs psychological therapy, both of you should contribute toward it.
You should pay for your child’s food while they are living with you. If you and your co-parent are sharing a meal with your child, you can contribute equal amounts.
There are ways you can keep your expenses down. Plan your meals out in advance. Find a day during the week where you can shop and purchase your food at once.
Cook meals with inexpensive ingredients like fresh produce and beans. This will save you money and create healthy meals.
You can use coupons or go to the store during a sale. But coupons and sales are often for processed and unhealthy foods. Pick your sales, so you create healthy meals for your child.
Try to avoid ordering takeout. Takeout may be more convenient than cooking meals, but it is also more expensive when you do order it, select dishes that you can make multiple meals out of.
Your child will need new supplies at the start of every school year. This includes notebooks, binders, and paper.
As your child gets older, you may need to pay for textbooks. These can be expensive.
Both of you should pay for supplies. Save up a little extra money as you reach the end of the summer. Go to stores like Staples that run back-to-school sales.
You can reuse most supplies, including binders. Tell your child to preserve them with duct tape as the school year goes on.
The average four-year public college costs $56,840. Keep in mind that this is the expense of college right now. Tuition costs have grown through time, so you may need to pay more when your child turns 18.
If you have not started saving money, you should start doing so right now. You may need to find an additional revenue stream to cover tuition expenses.
If you have started saving money, keep doing so. You should not stop during or after the divorce process.
As your child approaches college, you can start examining financial aid programs. The Free Application for Federal Student Aid lets students with separated parents apply for financial aid.
The application includes a section about one parent’s finances. Listing the co-parent who makes less money increases your child’s chances of getting aid.
When your child picks a school, they should also apply for financial aid there. Most schools take into account the disposable income of co-parents. If two co-parents have to pay for their own costs, the school will give more financial aid.
Clothes are a substantial expense because children grow so rapidly. A child should have a week’s worth of clothes at any given time. They should have seven bottoms and tops.
Get clothes made from sturdy materials. Blue jeans resist wear and tear. Sweatpants are thick and breathable, letting your child run around without breaking the material.
They should also have at least seven pairs of undergarments. It may be a good idea to buy more in case your child has an emergency. They should have a good pair of shoes.
Little children often put holes in their clothes. When that happens, try sewing the hole closed or patching it up.
Young children do not need formal wear. A shirt and pants with neutral colors suffice for an event like a wedding. If you do want to get them formal clothes, you can find cheap versions from online retailers.
Communicate with your ex when you think your child needs a new set of clothes. Buy clothes whenever one of you feels it is warranted. Both of you should contribute.
Recreational Activities and Vacations
Your child may go to summer camp, which can cost thousands of dollars per year. As they get older, they may participate in hobbies and extracurricular activities with registration fees.
For the time being, try to pay equal amounts for your child’s recreation. If one of you becomes involved in an activity they do, that person can take the lead on paying for it.
The parent conducting a vacation should pay for it. It is unreasonable to expect the other parent to pay for something that they are not participating in.
Provide the Best For Your Child
You and your co-parent can cover expenses for kids. Once you are ready, take a look at your financial picture. Talk to your co-parent and develop a plan with a payment schedule.
Make sure you are financially healthy. Pay off your debts using a particular scheme and find additional revenue streams.
Housing, healthcare, food, and school supplies are immediate problems. Save up money and contribute equal amounts. Be prepared to spend money on college tuition, clothes, and recreation.
Divorce does not have to be disruptive. 2Houses supplies co-parents with essential information. Read our guide on long-distance parenting.