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Do I have to pay for back-to-school supplies if I’m paying child support?

by | Aug 31, 2021 | Firm News |

This is one of the most challenging times of the year for parents. When kids go back to school, it can mean a change of routine, especially for those who are going from elementary to middle school or middle school to high school. There’s the added stress of having to get kids out the door to school on weekdays, starting with waking up early and making sure everyone in the house is awake. And then, of course, there’s the cost of back-to-school clothes and back-to-school supplies.

For parents who pay child support, back-to-school time can be stressful, especially if the parent who is receiving child support expects the person paying child support to share in the cost of getting back-to-school supplies. If you’re paying child support, you might reason that child support is intended for expenses like back-to-school supplies … and you’d be absolutely right. If it is a divorce in which one parent is considered the managing conservator, has the child more than half the time, and receives child support, then that parent should be able to utilize child support for those annual end-of-summer shopping trips.

However, the question of who pays for what can be complicated by what’s in the decree as well as what’s not in the decree.

Typically, in Texas divorce decrees, items like medical expenses are supposed to be split evenly between the parents. In child support arrangements, the parent paying child support is either supposed to arrange for the kids to be covered by health insurance or pay a supplemental amount to the parent receiving child support, if that parent is covering the kids under his or her plan.

But things like school uniforms and fees for an after-school club don’t typically figure into decree language. Couples, if they’re negotiating their own decrees, can write certain stipulations about who pays for what into them, but that can get nitpicky, and if couples disagree on certain items, it can bog down the whole negotiation process. A couple litigating its divorce can make cases for who should pay for what through their legal representation, but it’s up to the judge to determine if it’s compelling enough to include in the decree.

So, oftentimes, it’ll come down to a question of who has the money to pay for something the child needs. A parent receiving child support should be able to budget money from that monthly payment toward back-to-school expenses, but it doesn’t always work that way.

If a parent paying child support in Texas does have to pay additionally for something out-of-pocket, it’s possible to get credit for that amount by filling out a direct support affidavit, claiming that the money paid for school clothes went directly to the parent. However, the custodial parent has to agree to that and sign the form in the presence of a notary public, and then it needs to be submitted to the Office of the Attorney General’s Office to be credited to the child support account — which isn’t an especially quick process.

If a custodial parent’s not willing to make that kind of arrangement, and you’re concerned about being on the hook for extra expenses, you can certainly look into adjusting your decree to make sure there’s specific and enforceable language in the decree. But even that might result in going to court for compensation after the fact, if your ex won’t abide by an agreement and you’re needing to cover an expense before you can get a court date.

But a well-crafted decree or modification can make a huge difference in at least codifying what might be a contentious issue that could get in the way of you and your ex’s ability to cooperate. At the Law Office of Lisa A. Vance, we work with couples to create divorce solutions that factor in what their lives will be like after they get divorced and still have to parent their kids together. If you’re looking for a divorce decree that helps parents get past those hurdles, schedule a consultation to learn about your options.