Child support is calculated based on what costs are necessary to sustain the child's pre-divorce lifestyle after a divorce. It covers more than just the sum of food, basic clothing and school costs. Child support can cover everything from entertainment to private school tuition to summer camp if those activities were part of the child's life before the parents got divorced. So, the child support payment should be calculated partly on all the potential costs for raising the child (the other part is what the noncustodial spouse can afford to pay). However, there are additional costs that may occur that the noncustodial spouse is required to contribute to outside of monthly child support.
Medical Costs That Insurance Doesn't Cover
Child support should cover known medical costs and the cost of insurance if there is an extra charge to have the child covered under a parent's policy. However, if the child needs medical care and has costs that insurance won't cover, such as an out-of-network ambulance trip or a necessary procedure that insurance refuses to cover, then both parents may need to split the cost. It is possible that the noncustodial spouse may refuse at first, which could lead to another trip to court, but the court will decide if the noncustodial spouse actually can contribute to the surprise cost. Of course, it is best to avoid court and split the cost when the child's health is in question.
Depending on the state you're in, child support might end when the child reaches the age of maturity, but college support might be required at this point. Some states consider college to be a necessary expense that should not be withheld from the child after a divorce. If the child does not have financial aid and the custodial spouse can't pay all of the costs, the noncustodial spouse may have to contribute. With child support over, that leaves money available for college support. This can be a tricky situation to maneuver, especially given the vast differences in costs between private and public schools and in-state versus out-of-state tuition. Spouses need to contact their lawyers and open up negotiations if they are not in agreement over college costs.
Sometimes, the cost of raising the child jumps. This can be due to spiraling rent costs, for example, or due to a child who was very young at the time of the divorce discovering interests that require after-school lessons. When there is a cost jump that the custodial spouse can't handle, all parties need to meet again to discuss a new child support arrangement. Keep in mind that if the child is showing great promise in something, such as becoming a championship youth soccer player, the courts may look very favorably upon modifying the child support agreement to include splitting the team fees and related costs.
If there is any question about child support after a divorce, a family attorney can help you out. Do not assume you have to or don't have to pay something; if you and your ex-spouse are not in agreement, get your lawyers to negotiate.