If you’re reading this, and are already divorced, you are aware of this gigantic headache. But read on, hopefully you’ll find affirmation in knowing how universal this problem is and will truly appreciate the simplicity of our solution.
Let’s begin by examining parenting expense language in divorce agreements. What you’ll find most often is that child support is not the only expense related to children in the agreement. There’s what is referred to as add-on expenses or shared parenting expenses. The agreement will define these, pending on state guidelines and what was negotiated by the parents, and the expenses might include items such as, unreimbursed medical expenses, childcare/daycare expenses, and extracurricular activities. Then the decree will detail how each parent needs to inform the other party of an expense and the timeline that the other parent has for reimbursement. For example, son has X-ray, and there is a $500 copay and the agreement states that unreimbursed medical is to be split 50/50. Parent may be ordered by the stipulation that receipt needs to be shared via email within 10 business days of the procedure. Then the parent making reimbursement may be ordered to pay within 14 days of having been informed of the expense.
The volume of shared parenting expenses is increasing. This is the result of more 50/50 custody arrangements with men and women sharing in both child rearing and financial support equally. Now that we have described how tedious it is to manage shared expenses, imagine having to track receipts, date co-parent was informed, and the reimbursement date for several monthly expenses. To put it simply, many parents stop following the divorce stipulation immediately. The trouble is that this exposes the non-compliant parent(s) to arguments over expenses and to potential litigation or non-reimbursement.
Some parents turn to spreadsheets to track expenses and payments, but inevitably there’s a loss of discipline over time or there is a persistent argument over who’s child expense spreadsheet tracker is correct. We have even had parents describe a quarterly “showdown” over their expense trackers. The solution is paying child support online and tracking expenses using the best co-parenting app for divorced parents DComply.
What do we do over the $1,500 pair of eyeglasses? The other challenge with shared parenting expenses is that unlike child support, they are not fixed expenses and what is necessary is at the discretion of the parents. While one parent may believe that the Ralph Lauren designer frames with the ultra-thin scratch resistant lenses are a necessity, the other parent might not share the same perspective. This disagreement can manifest itself in all sorts of expenses such as, camps, lessons, therapies, university, etc.
It is no surprise that so many divorced parents find themselves back in post-divorce litigation. Shared parenting expenses are messy and emotional baggage that divorced parents carry doesn’t help. It is tempting to loosely follow the stipulation, but I would compare it to riding a motorcycle without a helmet. If you ride often enough carelessly, you’re bound to have an accident, and without a helmet, riding could be extremely dangerous. If you consistently dismiss your divorce stipulation over shared expenses, your potential exposure to very costly litigation increases. And if litigation arrives, prepare to meet the burden of proof by digging up years’ worth of receipts, emails, proof of payments, and financial statements to prove your case. The effort to review documentation and make your case can cost you thousands.