The Start of School and How it Affects Your Divorce
It is hard to believe it is already time to start planning for the upcoming school year. Many districts throughout the state are operating on a balanced calendar and school will be starting up very soon. If you have children and are no longer with the other parent, chances are you are following some version of a court order with a parenting time plan and an expected division of child related expenses.
If child support has been calculated based upon the Indiana Child Support Calculator, the parent receiving child support is responsible for the controlled expenses of the child. This is important during planning for school because expenses such as school supplies, registration fees, textbook costs, backpacks and school shoes are controlled expenses. Think of controlled expenses as those costs that are ordinary for every child. As such, if ipads are required for all students, the cost would qualify as a controlled expense. School lunches are also an expense covered by the parent receiving support. That does not mean the other parent should ask for reimbursement for the cost of packing lunches on days the child is with them. Yes, that happens.
Many children participate in extra-curricular activities. There is a misconception that sports are the only activity in this category. In reality, the definition is much broader and can include clubs, academic groups, music, etc. Basically, if the activity is optional and has an expense associated with participation, it may be considered an extra-curricular activity. There should be communication about the activity, including details about cost and involvement. Unless one parent has an order that allows them to be the only decision maker or is the only one paying for the activity, most attorneys will encourage a written agreement between the parents before registration. Extra-curricular activity expenses are separate from child support and will be divided pursuant to the court order. It is common for expenses to be divided either based upon pro rata shares of income or equally between the parents.
At the beginning of every school year, parents are asked to fill out emergency contact forms and provide contact information for the school and teachers. Unless there is a specific fact pattern in the case that would prevent a parent from having access to information, the recommendation is to provide contact information for both parents. Most teachers and schools communicate with parents via email, electronic newsletters and school websites. Schools are very accustomed to multi-household families. It is easier for both parents to receive notifications directly from the school than it is for one parent to be responsible for passing along all information as it is received. This also relieves the children from the uncomfortable position of relaying information.
Printing out the calendar for the school year is helpful in identifying the holidays as well as the random teacher development days when school is closed. Pre-planning school closures and the division of breaks from school will reduce conflict and also ease transitions for children. Many children benefit from having a visual calendar and knowing which home they will be at on which days.
School can be both exciting and stressful for children of all ages. Unfortunately, parents can unintentionally add additional stress for the children by engaging in constant disagreements and conflicts over finances and communication. The actions and preparations of the parents can also positively influence the school year, help create relationships with teachers and encourage co-parenting without conflict.
If you or someone you know has questions about controlled expenses or school matters, Banks and Brower, LLC can assist. Give us a call at (317) 870-0019, or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.