Financial conflicts often get cited as a reason married couples argue. When a marriage ends in divorce, money woes can worsen since incomes are no longer combined. Divorce is always rife with challenges and hardships, but when children are in the mix, the challenges become more challenging, and the hardships get harder.
Raising kids inevitably leads to more financial decisions and additional expenses, such as school supplies and sports enrollment fees. A mediator or judge usually arranges most payments in a legal document, but what about unforeseen costs or financial changes that pop up? There are many shared parenting apps to help co-parents work together effectively. However, teamwork, communication, and flexibility are essential for successfully juggling co-parent expenses.
If you and your ex can agree to put your differences aside for the benefit of the children, you’ll save yourself a lot of headaches and thousands of dollars in attorney fees. Maybe mentioning the potential savings to an uncooperative co-parent will help motivate them to work with you on budgeting for and sharing expenses.
Some divorced couples choose to split costs 50-50, especially if the custody arrangement is equal. Another common structure is a 70-30 split if one earns significantly more than the other. How you choose to split expenses may largely be outlined in your custody arrangement, divorce decree, or parenting plan. While those legal documents are excellent guides, they cannot predict and account for every minor or major expense that occurs by the time your child is grown, and planning for multiple children can become even more challenging. The two of you will find it mutually beneficial (and cheaper) if you can agree outside of court.
Technology can facilitate financial teamwork, especially if you and your co-parent are separated by miles. Creative co-parenting apps exist that allow you to collaboratively pay for and request money without the need to meet or exchange messages back and forth constantly. Apps like DComply also keep your financial records, making it easier to track down, remember, and prove who paid what and what is still owed to whom. Apps that let you easily photograph or upload bills and receipts make it easier for you to pay extra, unplanned child-related costs and then “settle up” with your co-parent at regular intervals to ensure everyone is paying their fair share.
Of course, there will be times when you don’t see eye to eye on how shared money should be spent. Determining who pays for extracurricular activities, for example, could become tricky when one of you desires to add an activity to your child’s schedule, but the other parent is not on board. It may be helpful to split paying for extracurriculars based on which parent desires to enroll the child into the activity; just respectfully consider your child’s opinion and avoid scheduling the activity of your choice during the other parent’s custody time.
Undoubtedly, communication is challenging after a divorce. Many divorces occur from a breakdown in communication to begin with and heated emotions stemming from a breakup do not make it any easier. However, it is necessary to put your differences aside and remind yourself and the co-parent that your common ground lies in doing what is best for your children. The sooner you open up the lines of communication after a divorce, the better.
When talking about finances, be honest about your income and savings, and try to approach your talks with all the emotionless professionalism of a boardroom meeting. Limit demands and nix cynical, sarcastic speech. Keep in mind that neither one of you can get your way on everything, so choose your battles wisely; give a little to potentially get a lot.
Learning to juggle co-parent expenses presents an excellent opportunity to teach kids about financial responsibility. You can have an honest conversation with your child about your income and what your household budget looks like. Kids who are taught money concepts from a young age more readily understand why they cannot have something and become better at saving up and waiting to get what they want. Keep money talks with them positive to neutral. It is an opportunity to teach real-world skills. It is not a venting session to complain about how the co-parent hasn’t helped out.
If all else fails when trying to communicate civilly with the other parent, remember that cooler heads prevail, and avoid a situation in which your spoken or written words could be used against you. Communicate through writing, so that everything is documented, and you have a chance to check your language before sending. Several co-parenting apps exist to help you check your tone and remove charged language. In fact, we wrote a blog about that. Read it here at “6 Apps to Maximize Time With Your Child After Divorce.”
Life rarely goes as planned for anyone. For this reason, it’s essential that you are flexible. Maybe you or your co-parent lose your job, go back to school, or need to relocate. Perhaps your child becomes interested in yet another extracurricular activity that you couldn’t have predicted, and it costs more time and money. Maybe you need to spot your co-parent another $20 during their custody time.
Whatever life throws at you, remember to give grace, knowing that it might be you on the receiving end one day. In addition to cutting your co-parent some slack, have a child care backup plan in case schedules don’t go as planned. Agreeing to have a family member help take care of the children, for example, if schedules get crazy or professional child care becomes unaffordable, will help you both maintain some flexibility.
With all the little and big shared expenses adding up, turn to technology to stay flexibly coordinated. An expense-tracking app allows you to keep organized, accurate records of what you have paid for versus what your co-parent has paid for. Many of these apps also make it easy to photograph and store bills and receipts electronically so that all expenses are in one place and easily reconcilable.
Divorce is emotionally charged and presents a financial challenge as household income becomes split in two, and parents who typically are not getting along must now try to agree on bills. With time and consistency, though, each side has what it takes to conquer this “new normal” and successfully handle co-parenting expenses. You can even use this as a teaching moment for your children to learn about financial responsibility and what healthy adult relationships can look like. Communication, teamwork, and flexibility are key.