Margie: When parents divorce one of the biggest issues is child support, who pays for medical bills, insurance, and college. Well, the courts will decide all of that for you, but what about all the other things, like activities, camp, sports, things like that. Attorney Jonathan Marks, with the Marks Law Firm is here to break down some of those issues for us. Good morning to you.
Jonathan: Good Morning Margie.
Margie: I mean most of this is gonna be decided, but kids are kind of unpredictable, so you don’t know about all the other things that may come along. So what’s the best thing we can do?
Jonathan: Well, I think the best thing is to learn upfront, when your’re going through the process, that what it is exactly that the child support is intended to cover. So a little education at the beginning with somebody, and having the understanding of what that monthly expense is suppose to cover makes it much easier. So then you can define what are the uncover expenses that are not going to be known to somebody for purposes of the monthly child support obligation.
Margie: Yes, and you suggest writing some of those things down for your attorney, to save you from maybe having to go back to court to modify, or for contempt.
Jonathan: Sure, so I think it’s helpful to make sorta two lists. One would be what is it you think is gonna be covered, so for example, one of the most common problem is school lunches, this happens all the time, or what about those school activities, and clearly when somebody has the child and is taking them to school in the morning, or putting them on the bus, it’s their responsibility to make sure that they are fed on that particular date, so that’s not necessarily a child support issue. But most common question that comes from somebody is the school lunches is not getting covered.
The next thing you run into is probably the extracurricular activities, if someone’s involved in sports, how are those things going to get paid, and who is responsible for signing up, and then how does that expense get divided between the two parents. I think it’s important that, it’s not always just based upon what the child wants to do, it’s the parents really have to sit down and come to a agreement as to what is the proper enrollment, which is the proper select soccer or the regular soccer program, and how is that expense gonna get paid, is it 50-50, is it divided by their income. These are all things that parents have to go through to really think about what is the proper way to enroll before you’ve incurred the expense.
Margie: Yes. So once you have that hammered out. Then there’s also a big issue of decision making, like how do you come about deciding what they’re gonna do and what they’re not gonna do.
Jonathan: Exactly, so it’s not always just about the expense, but it’s also about does the parent have the ability to transport that child to the activity when it’s their custodial time. One of the biggest problems you run into is the parents failing to communicate about that issue, and then the child really being the one that suffers because one parent may end up enrolling a child let’s say in a hockey program, and the other parent doesn’t have the ability to get to those particular practices at those particular times.
So the parents really need to sit down and have a discussion and develop a mechanism. Sometimes it’s face to face, but more often it’s better if they’re doing it in some form of a written communication whether it’s by email, or through one of the our family wizard and talking parents programs available to you on the internet, so there is no confusion and everything is written down, and they can always have something to go back to should one parent say well, that’s not exactly what we agreed to. So having clarity and some communication is always the best route to go on that particular situation.
Margie: Yes, and it keeps it away from the kids as well.
Jonathan: That’s the biggest problem. You run into two, one is the parent that’s always the giver, so they’ll always be saying yes you can do this, or yeah, I’m gonna buy you that computer that’s supposedly required for you in school system, here’s another iPad, but it’s always making them feel as if they’re the giving parent, and the other parent is not living up to their expectations, which is really hard for a child to understand but could affect their feeling toward the other parent.
And the other one is who is empowering the particular child into being able to do what they want, are you spoiling from the example of no matter what it is that you ask of a particular parent. Now you’re in a situation where the child is always getting everything they’re asking for and you run into discipline problems going from household to household.
Margie: Some great things to keep in mind. Jonathan Marks, thank you for your time this morning, we appreciate it. For more information on the Marks Law Firm just head to the “STL Mom’s” tab, and we will provide you with a link. John and Lisa.
Jonathan: Thank you so much