Who Pays for the Skating Tights? Moving Beyond Child Support

by | May 3, 2013 | Child Support, Children in Divorce, Collaborative Law, Family Law, Parents | 2 comments

Photo by Jos Dielis
Photo by Jos Dielis
I heard a story about a 9-year-old girl who competed in ice skating. She told her coach that she wanted to become a lawyer when she grew up so she could help families stop fighting after divorce. “I am so sick of my parents arguing about who is going to pay for my skating tights.” Minnesota’s child support laws can calculate child support, but they do not tell you who pays for the skating tights. Or the music lessons. Or the school lunches. And sometimes parents feel resentful paying child support when they are making a payment to the other parent, and they don’t really see how that money is paying  for the child. Just consider Kanye West’s song “Gold Digger”:

I know somebody payin’ child support for one of his kids His baby momma’s car crib is bigger than his You will see him on TV, any given Sunday Win the Superbowl and drive off in a Hyundai She was supposed to buy ya shorty Tyco with ya money She went to the doctor got lipo with ya money

When parents are willing to step outside the courtroom to solve the issue of supporting their children, they can create custom solutions that minimize fighting. In the collaborative divorce process, we ask our families to put together budgets and we separate the children’s expenses. What are the actual expenses for your children? Things such as summer camps, sports, tutoring, clothing, cell phones,and driving lessons. Once parents have a clear picture of what the expenses are, they can talk about how to pay for these expenses. One creative solution many of our clients adopt is an account for the children’s expenses.  The parents designate a joint account, decide how to fund the account and how to handle payments from the account. So when Susie is at mom’s house and says she needs to bring a check for school lunches, mom can write a check from the joint account. When dad takes Billy shopping for new soccer cleats, he can pay with a debit card from the joint account. The parents can talk about the actual expenses and revise their budget as the needs of their children change. And no one is taking child support to get plastic surgery like in Kanye’s song.

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