Parents are required by law to support their children financially, until their children become adults. In some states child support required by law generally ends when a child reaches age 18; in others, child support doesn’t end until the child graduates college. The federal government passed legislation that required states to come up with guidelines for setting child support which each state must adhere to, and not deviate from, unless a party is of an extraordinary means or has a lot of extra children or health problems or something similar.

Many parents are surprised to learn that even though they share custody 50/50, one parent will still usually have to pay child support to the other. The guidelines are meant to adequately cover the expenses related to raising a child. However, the parent receiving child support payments usually considers the payments to be inadequate and the payor thinks they are paying too much because the parents have no real sense of what they were spending when they were married.

That is why it is so important to hire a Certified Divorce Financial Analyst to help work though the child support guidelines and create a budget than can be a starting point for thoughtful negotiations. Many people who come to me have never kept a budget and even those who have, have never broken their budget down further to apportion expenses attributable to their children. They are often surprised at how much they really spend and haven’t given detailed thought about how the costs relating to their children will change over the years. Child support guidelines do not consider a child’s age, and costs for a teenager will differ from those of a five year old.

Rather than set themselves up for a lot of bitter feelings later, when they have to continuously negotiate with their ex to cover expenses, they can set out a budget of “must provide” and “would like to provide” expenses and negotiate how to fairly split those expenses. Unfortunately, divorce usually has negative financial consequences for the whole family and this process can provide both parents with realistic expectations on how much they might need to cut back expenses relating to their children.