A Look at What Qualifies as a Controlled Expense in Child Support

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Controlled Expenses: What are they and who pays them?


Controlled expenses—a term most of you have probably heard if you’re going through a divorce and have young children.  But, what exactly are they?  The Indiana Child Support Guidelines establishes a standard of support for children and, as part of that standard, certain factors are taken in to account that affect the ultimate amount a non-custodial parent is obligated to pay in child support.  In one of our previous blogs we discussed how child support was calculated according to the Indiana guidelines, but today we are going to take a more specific look at the term “controlled expenses”.
Controlled expenses, defined by the guidelines, are items like clothing, education, school books and supplies, ordinary uninsured health care and personal care.  Typically, these type of expenses are to be covered by the parent who is the primary caregiver for the child or, in other words, the custodial parent.  The reason that these expenses are typically covered by the custodial parent is because these expenses are factored into the child support amount that the non-custodial parent is obligated to pay.  Controlled expenses are not expenses that are “transferred” or “duplicated” between households.  A non-custodial parent gets a “credit” towards their child support obligation amount for each overnight that is exercised with the child.   This is because when a child is spending overnights with a parent, that parent is typically incurring expenses for that child.  The less overnights the non-custodial parent is exercising, then the less credit they get and the higher their child support obligation will be.  It makes sense then that the custodial parent would be required to cover the daily expenses, like personal care items, for the child because the amount of child support received is higher due to the non-custodial parent not receiving the overnight “credits”.
The rules change if parents are equally sharing parenting time because then each parent is incurring these type of expenses on a regular basis.  If parents are equally sharing parenting time, then for purposes of calculating child support, one parent must be designated as the parent who will pay the controlled expenses.  This can happen by agreement between the parties or by order of the court.  Under the guidelines, the court will consider the following factors when determining which parent should be assigned controlled expenses:

  • Which parent has traditionally paid these expenses
  • Which parent is more likely to be able to readily pay the controlled expenses
  • Which parent more frequently takes the child to the health care provider
  • Which parent has traditionally been more involved in the child’s school activities

Once the controlled expenses are assigned to one parent, then the other parent will get the parenting time “credit”.  The parenting time credit almost works in reverse here because whichever parent is not paying controlled expenses will have a higher child support obligation since the parents are equally sharing parenting time.
We constantly get asked whether certain expenses are considered a controlled expense; the guidelines offer some examples of what’s included, but the list is not exhaustive.  School books and supplies are listed, but does that mean school lunches should qualify as a controlled expense?  The answer is likely yes.  What about education?  Does education include both public and private tuition fees?  Public school fees, like books and supplies and school bus fees are a controlled expense, but private tuition fees are not considered controlled expenses.  Extracurricular activities are also not considered controlled expenses and should be worked out via an agreement between the parents or through an order from the court.
The attorneys at Banks & Brower, LLC are experienced in all areas of family law.  Give us a call at 317.870.0019.  We are available to answer your questions 24/7!