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A typical child support order is meant to help cover the normal expenses of raising a child, such as housing, food, and clothing. It usually doesn’t cover the cost of work-related childcare after divorce. Also not included in most child support calculations are the cost of extracurricular activities, uninsured medical expenses, and other extraordinary expenses for the child.

By | Answers by Brette Sember, J.D.

Child care may not be needed in all situations, such as when children are older or being cared for by a family member. On the other hand, it will probably be necessary for younger children when a parent is working, receiving education or training to enter the workforce, or even while seeking employment.

When childcare is necessary for employment, it is generally considered a shared expense for the parents. If a parent incurs childcare expenses that is not necessary for employment, it is not the other parent’s obligation to help pay for these.

Work-related childcare expenses generally include:

  • Daycare for children not yet in school
  • A nanny or babysitter for at-home care of the child
  • Before and after school care
  • Summer care programs when school is not in session

Some state child support guidelines may factor the cost of childcare into the actual amount of child support to be paid. Other states may divide childcare expenses based on a percentage of each parent’s income. In other words, the parent who earns more will pay a higher portion of the childcare expenses. And there are some states which may simply require the parents to split the childcare costs evenly. It is always a good idea to review the child support guidelines for your state (1) if you have children who require childcare.

Even if parents have a 50/50 custody arrangement in which no child support is ordered, the parents will generally split the cost of childcare evenly. If your child support order didn’t address expenses for childcare after divorce, you may find yourself constantly battling with your ex over who is responsible for these costs. In this situation you will need to request a modification of your child support order to include how childcare expenses will be split.

When it comes to paying for the childcare, the parents can each pay their share directly to the care provider if split billing is available. Generally, most providers bill the parent who signed the child up. In these situations, the other parent is supposed to reimburse the paying parent for their share of the childcare bill.

Our legal advisor has answered many questions concerning the financial responsibility for childcare after divorce. Keep reading for even more information on this topic:

FAQs About Childcare after Divorce

Can he be required to pay a portion of the daycare expenses?

Jackie’s Question: I’m currently going through a divorce, but have already been awarded child support. If my child has to go to daycare, shouldn’t my ex have to pay for half of the daycare expenses even though I am receiving child support?

Brette’s Answer: Child care/education costs as well as child medical costs are all a component of child care. You can get a temporary order detailing these expenses, or you can wait and make it part of your final order. These expenses aren’t necessarily half and half – it depends on all the circumstances of your situation and what is the most fair.

Do I have to pay for daycare while she is with her dad?

Jenn’s Question: My ex has summer vacation visitation rights for the last two weeks of June and July. Will I have to pay for daycare if he chooses to take her to daycare?

Brette’s Answer: It depends. If your child is currently in daycare and goes on a regular basis and you pay the cost of that, you might have to continue to pay it. It really is going to depend on how your order reads and who is responsible for daycare costs in general. To draw an analogy, if your order says you are solely responsible for all medical costs and he has to take her to the Doctor while she is with him, you would be responsible for that.

How do I request reimbursement for the child care?

Katie’s Question: I’m wondering what the customary documentation is needed to request reimbursement from my children’s father for my work-related child care expenses.

Brette’s Answer: If you already have a court order directing him to pay it you simply give him a copy of the bill. If you don’t have an order then you’ll need to file a petition requesting this.

What if I’m not being reimbursed for the daycare like we agreed?

Kayce’s Question: We agreed on a lot of things in mediation, one of the agreements was that he was to pay half of the cost of childcare. I am to send him a copy of the bill and he was to send me half of the payment. Now he is deployed and still gets the bills but the girlfriend refuses to send payment. What am I to do?

Brette’s Answer: If the agreement was incorporated into an order, you go to court to enforce it. If there is no order, you go to court to get an order.

Why is he trying to avoid paying for daycare through DHS?

Lucy’s Question: My daughter is going through a divorce involving a child. The father does not want to pay for daycare through DHS. In fact, he does not want to use DHS at all and has asked that my daughter trust him. Is there a reason a father would request that he be allowed to pay all daycare expenses and not pay going through DHS?

Brette’s Answer: Things that are payable through DHS are readily enforceable by the state. He most likely wants to avoid that. There is no reason not to do this through DHS.

Can he deduct child care from the support if it’s not being used?

Melissa’s Question: My ex-husband says that he is going to deduct 1/2 of the childcare from my child support check even though I will not be using it. She is in Kindergarten fulltime & I do not need to use the before care & after care program. He states that the court paperwork says that I am responsible for 1/2 of the childcare. Can he do this?

Brette’s Answer: If there is no child care, he cannot do this. Child care costs only become an issue when there is an actual child care cost.

Does he have to pay me for child care if I take care of our child?

Bella’s Question: I don’t work and I take care of our child. Can I ask him to pay half of what a child care would be and keep the money?

Brette’s Answer: You could certainly ask but it is very unlikely a court would order this. A court could state that you are to be the child care provider of first choice, but not that you should be paid. You could then possibly get an increase in child support. Talk with your attorney to understand what courts in your area would rule.

Can he file for back child care if I was taking care of the kids?

Jazlynn’s Question: My ex has put in a motion that I re-pay him a huge lump sum of back child care costs while he was deployed. During this time, I solely provided care for the kids. Will the courts actually grant him this, even though I took a huge pay cut and was the only one caring for the children?

Brette’s Answer: It sounds like you need to get child support modified to reflect the current situation, so you need to file a petition for that.


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