When you go through a divorce with children, your final decree will include the exact amount of child support the non-custodial parent must pay to the custodial parent each month. In Georgia, there is a child support worksheet into which parties can plug relevant information (i.e. income, health insurance, daycare/school expenses) to come up with the appropriate amount of child support. O.C.G.A. § 19-6-15. The worksheet takes into account known expenses for the children, but anyone who has children knows that unanticipated expenses come up all the time. These can include everything from unexpected medical expenses to extracurricular activities. If the custodial parent wants to be reimbursed for these expenses, he/she will have to work out payment with his/her ex, or involve attorneys to get payment, if the parties do not communicate well. Even for parents who get along and co-parent very well, the constant asking for money on top of child support may foster resentment between the parties, especially if the parent being asked for money does not know exactly where the money is going. Constantly asking for money for “soccer” may not sit well and may make visitation exchanges uncomfortable.
Fortunately, there are now websites and apps that can help parents in this situation. One app, called Our Family Wizard, allows a parent to put in an expense and attach a receipt. A notification then goes out to the other parent, much like a bill that needs to be paid. This takes the parent-to-parent communication out of the equation. If both parties join (it is $99/year per parent), they can even link their accounts and pay the bill by transferring money from one parent’s account to the other. As an additional benefit, the app allows member parents to use a shared calendar, which can likely help ensure everyone is on the same page about visitation times, vacations, etc.
There are other websites/apps that provide a similar service: 2houses.com is one to consider. Another option is using a shared Google doc. All of these options ensure there is transparency about expenses for the children and could work for both custody and child support. While some parents may not want to give up the personal communication about their children’s financial needs, others may want to give up the stress that comes along with it. Figure out what works best for you, but don’t be afraid to utilize some of these programs if they could have a positive impact on your co-parenting.