How to Approach Your Ex-Spouse for Extra Expenses
Uniforms, costumes for performances, dental bills, out-of-pocket medical expenses… how should divorced couples handle these extra expenses for their children?
Money is a tough issue for marrieds, and it often remains a battleground after the divorce—especially when kids are involved.
Divorce debt is one thing: those debts accrued during the marriage can be worked out in the divorce paperwork.
What we’re talking about are the extras that kids always require, whether it’s new shoes because their feet have outgrown their sneakers yet again, money for a school trip, or weekly spending money.
For the ex-spouse paying child support, they may feel that they are already doing everything they should that’s required of them legally. Child support goes to helping with the expenses related to raising a child—the same as if the biological parents were still together.
Child support payments are determined through different means, but generally the incomes of both parents are taken into account as well as child care expenses.
But any parent with a school-age child knows, every time you turn around, there is money needed for something.
Parents who receive child support may be hesitant to approach their ex-spouse and ask for any additional money for things they feel are above and beyond child support payments.
On the internet, you can find calculators to help figure out how much it costs to raise a child to the age of 18. The USDA issued their newest figure this year for this measure: a child born in 2011 will cost $235,000 for middle-income parents to raise to age 18. Factors that affect the number include where you live in the country, food, clothing, health care and those ubiquitous “miscellaneous expenses.”
So if you are hesitant in approaching your ex-spouse to help out with some of those “above and beyond” expenses, keep that number in mind as you prepare to ask to split costs.
Here are 3 tips for approaching the subject with your ex-spouse:
1- Keep track of monthly expenses.
There is a lot of resentment that can come about related to money when ex-spouses talk. Both parents may be struggling separately to stay on top of bills, or the parent paying the child support may feel their hardship is greater because they see that “chunk of money” coming out of their income each month.
It’s important that the parent who receives the child support payments keep track of child-related expenses. Keeping a record isn’t so you can play a game of tit for tat; rather, it is to show that there is a lot that goes into raising your beautiful children, beyond just food on the table and the roof over their head. You are doing your share, too, and the main goal is to provide the best you can—within both parents’ means—for your children.
2- Ask your ex-spouse for a meeting.
Asking for money from an ex-spouse can be uncomfortable. Keep in mind that your goal is to provide the best you can with the means you have for your children. You can broach the subject with your ex-spouse with something like this: “I wanted to take a little time to discuss some things about the kids with you. Can you give me a half hour of your time this week?”
Then, when you talk, explain that you have been over your expenses, and you have a lot of additional expenses they may not be aware of. Share the record of what types of things you spend on. It’s recommended you don’t start the conversation with, “We need an extra $200 a month…” as this has no explanation attached to it yet and no doubt you will be met with defensiveness.
Take a diplomatic approach, where you are seeking a solution to a problem rather than allowing things to devolve into accusations and acrimony. Ask your ex-spouse if they are able to contribute some to these extras, or if there are extras they feel should be cut. Maybe this isn’t the year that Little Johnny can go out for football. Maybe braces will have to wait for Cindy.
3- Consider a mediator.
Some divorced people can’t even be in the same room together let alone have a civil conversation. But if you have children together, the kids come first—ahead of the hurt feelings and history.
Consider going to a mediator to work out any issues that you can’t work out together where the kids are concerned. A skilled mediator can help you reach a solution that benefits your kids—moving you past those emotional roadblocks that might otherwise stifle good solutions.
Let us know…
Have you been in the situation of asking your ex-spouse for help with the extras?
If so, what was their response?
Do you feel that there’s ever enough money each month to cover child-rearing expenses?