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Spring Celebrations – Who Foots the Bill?

It’s finally spring, and after the winter we had here in Rhode Island, the warm weather is certainly a welcome reprieve. Along with flowers budding there are many rites of passage that your teens will experience, including graduations, proms and religious celebrations such as Bar/Bat Mitzvahs and Confirmations. Hidden in these exciting moments are significant costs: parties, clothing, tickets, photos, yearbooks and more. These expenses can really add up and put a dent in child support budgets. So who pays?

The RI Child Support Guidelines, revised every few years, are determined by an economist taking into account the costs of living in Rhode Island (including food, shelter, clothing and the costs that it takes for an average family in that income level to raise a child).  A child’s extraordinary needs and unusual but reasonable needs of both parents may also be considered along with the standard of living the child had prior to the divorce. But what about these unique circumstances that fall outside of monthly living?

If divorce occurred when the children were younger, perhaps your lawyer had the foresight to address these expectations in your original child support agreement. Sometimes, a provision for extra-curricular activities, such as baseball and like activities for the younger children are included. Provisions are often included for the parents to share the uninsured and/or underinsured health expense for the children either equally (depending on whom you represent) or in the same percentage as the incomes appear on the child support guideline worksheet.  Unfortunately, it is more likely that more pressing financial concerns may have been the focus if the kids were young at the time of divorce.

If these unexpected expenses are not accounted for in your child support agreement, following are considerations to help you meet your teen’s needs, without breaking the bank:

  • If possible, and with plenty of lead-time, approach the child’s other parent to discuss the event. Explain the importance, and try have an open and productive conversation designed to best support your child’s interests. 
  • Are there any relatives – aunts, uncles, grandparents who may be able to help out financially in lieu of a gift for the occasion?
  • Does your child work? If so, perhaps your child can help to pay for extras? Flowers, a portion of a transportation costs, tickets?
  • Original and handmade is in style.  Have a beautiful garden? Use your own flowers for centerpieces or corsages. Like to sew? That’s one way to guarantee that no one else will be wearing the same outfit!

If the above suggestions are not possible, you may want to consider a temporary modification to your child support agreement. Consult your lawyer to discuss the specifics of your custody agreement directly.

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