If you are a parent, you likely know how costly daycare can be. Depending on where you live, daycare and preschool can cost you tens of thousands of dollars a year. According to a recent article in the OC Register, full-time daycare for one child costs an average of $15,560 per year. If you have more than one child needing full-time care, this may mean you end up spending $30k a year or more on daycare.
When parents divorce, who will pay for daycare becomes a major sticking point for many couples. Because of the exorbitant cost of daycare, many families choose to have one parent stay home with the children. After a divorce, the stay-at-home parent typically has to re-enter the workforce, even if they are awarded spousal and child support. This means that the family will need at least part-time daycare, if not full-time.
Do Divorced Parents Share Daycare Costs?
So, what do parents do about daycare expenses when they divorce? Both parents are legally required to support their children financially, and child support is determined based on several factors. These factors include the parents’ respective income, the standard of living the child enjoyed before the divorce, and most importantly, the child’s needs. Furthermore, according to California Family Code § 4062, daycare costs related to employment or education or training related to a custodial parent’s employment skills may be added as additional child support.
Disputes around daycare often revolve around whether a parent thinks that the expense is truly necessary. If daycare is a new expense for the family, it can be challenging for parents to deal with the sudden increase in costs. Parents may also argue over what daycare to send their child to, which can significantly impact the price.
California law generally dictates that parents share child-rearing costs equally, meaning a 50-50 split. This means that if daycare is determined to be a necessary child-rearing cost, the parents will likely share the expense equally. However, if one parent has a significantly higher income than the other, the courts may adjust how expenses are shared.
What If You Are the Non-Custodial Parent?
Even if you are not the custodial parent, you are still responsible for supporting your minor children. This means that you will also be responsible for your share of daycare expenses if they are included as a necessary expense. While the amount of time the child spends with each parent may affect how child support is calculated, being the non-custodial parent does not mean you won’t have to pay for child-rearing expenses.
How an Attorney Can Help with Daycare Cost Disputes
If you are going through a divorce and have minor children, you should secure representation from a skilled attorney as soon as possible. Custody and child support are some of the most contested issues during divorce cases. By working with a knowledgeable attorney, you not only benefit from their experience, but they can also provide you with the resources you need to resolve your dispute effectively.
What to Do When Daycare Needs Arise Post-Divorce
Not all daycare costs are known or even expected when you are going through your divorce. For example, you and your former spouse may initially agree to have a family member provide childcare for free. However, as time goes on, your family’s needs and circumstances may change. Family members may not provide consistent daycare, or your job may change, requiring you to enroll your child in full-time daycare instead of part-time. Similarly, it is not uncommon for people to move after a divorce, and this may make your old daycare solution unrealistic.
When a parent’s or the family’s circumstances change substantially, you have the option to seek a child support modification from the courts. If you find that you have new daycare costs that were not accounted for in your original child support order, you should reach out to your attorney to find out if you have grounds for a modification.
At Burch Shepard Family Law Group, we have helped countless clients deal with even the most complicated daycare and child support disputes and modification requests. Our law firm utilizes a wide range of dispute resolution methods, including mediation representation and collaborative law methods. We know that going back to court can be a stressful process, and we are prepared to help you throughout the process, no matter how challenging your case.