By Joshua Stern, Divorce and Family Law Attorney
With back-to-school season in full swing, I’ve had many parents asking if child support can cover school fees. While it technically can cover school fees, this is typically not the best use of child support money—and here’s why.
What does child support cover?
Child support is intended to cover the soft costs of having children. This includes rent or mortgage, utilities, food, clothing and other incidentals. It aims to maintain the quality of life (in both homes) that the child or children would have if the marriage hadn’t been dissolved. Child support should ensure that your kids have every basic need met—but educational costs are an extra expense.
How do I cover school fees?
School fees fall outside the intention of recurring child support and should be covered by an expense share agreement. Mandated by the same statute as child support, a child expense share agreement provides for educational, medical, extracurricular and daycare costs. In your divorce, the court should order an agreement for these costs that extend beyond child support.
Like parenting time, child support and other critical decisions, the exact details of your expense share may differ based on how you approach divorce. Whether you choose mediation, litigation, negotiation or collaboration, the expense share is a crucial part of the process.
I’ve seen many cases in which parents contribute to these four main expenses proportionately, depending on their respective incomes; in other cases, they’ll be split 50/50. Arrangements differ based on every family’s unique situation, and our attorneys at Stern Perkoski Mendez can support you in designing what will work best for you and your children.
What if I don’t have an expense share agreement?
If you and your former spouse did not set up an expense share agreement, it is possible to use your child support money for school fees. However, this detracts from the funds you can spend on your child’s basic needs.
We always urge parents to set up an expense share agreement in order to provide the best quality of life possible for their child and to ease the challenges of divorce. This way, you are free to spend child support in the way it’s intended—and divide all other significant educational, medical, extracurricular and daycare expenses based on this agreement.
Contact Our Divorce and Family Law Firm in Evanston, Chicago and Lake Forest
If you are divorced and don’t have an expense share agreement with your former spouse, Stern Perkoski Mendez can help you put one in place. We will work with you and your family to ensure that your children’s expenses are covered by both you and your former spouse.