Divorcing couple meeting with lawyer

Dividing Child Care Expenses After Divorce

The question of how to divide childcare costs can be complicated. Even in an amicable divorce, parents may be unsure what type of division is fair. When a divorce is not amicable, the amount of child support payments can make emotions run high.

Whatever the situation, parents should remember that childcare expenses are a necessary part of parenthood. Both parents bear responsibility for childcare expenses after divorce.

What’s the difference between child care and child support?

In many states, including Florida, childcare expenses are not included in a basic child support agreement. Child support payments are intended to help with a child’s basic living expenses, like food, clothing, and school supplies.

Child support in Florida is determined by comparing the incomes of both parents. Based on income, each parent is assigned a percentage of financial responsibility. Typically, support is paid to the parent with primary custody. This is the parent with whom the child lives most of the time.

The Florida child support guidelines include the option for additional expenses. There are several additional items for which parents may need to share responsibility, but these might not be included in every child support agreement. These include health insurance, uninsured medical costs, prescription costs, and childcare expenses.

The cost of childcare is viewed as an additional cost that may be added to a child support agreement when necessary.  

How are child care expenses divided?

The obligation to pay childcare costs varies based on the situation. Not every family situation will involve the cost of childcare. For example, if the children are older or a grandparent provides childcare free of charge, no childcare cost is incurred. When childcare is a necessity, the cost can be rolled into the base childcare amount.

Childcare expenses can be added to a child support agreement when childcare is necessary for:

  • Employment 
  • Job seeking
  • Education that will lead to employment

The general rule in Florida is that when childcare is necessary for employment purposes, it’s viewed as an obligation. Childcare expenses incurred for other reasons are not viewed as an obligatory shared expenses. If a parent chooses childcare for leisure time, the other parent is not responsible for the expense.

If a parent chooses childcare for reasons related to a child’s enjoyment and social development, parents should work together to determine responsibility. If one parent doesn’t want to pay for childcare that is not a necessity for employment, they usually can’t be forced to pay.

Unlike many other states, Florida’s child support laws don’t include many provisions regarding extra-curricular activities. 

This means that if one parent wants to enroll a child into a childcare program for reasons related to socialization, the other parent can’t be compelled to help with the cost. This is also true for any other type of extracurricular activity, such as sports, music, or art classes.

It is possible in some cases for a court to compel one parent to assist with costs like these, but it would need to be shown in court that financial aid from the other parent is merited.

What if parents don’t agree on child care?

If parents share legal custody, they must work together to agree upon matters like which childcare organization a child should be enrolled in. When only one parent has legal custody, that parent can make those decisions independently.

The Florida support guidelines specify that the cost of childcare should not exceed what is necessary to provide quality support from a licensed specialist. This helps ensure that childcare is safe and professional, but not unnecessarily expensive. 

If one parent wants to enroll a child in a more costly childcare center, the other parent doesn’t need to cover the full cost.

Child support agreements can be complicated. If you need help with a child support agreement in Orlando, the family law attorneys at Patriot Legal Group can help achieve a support agreement that works for you. Get in touch with our office today.