Understanding Special and Extraordinary Expenses and How They Affect Child Support
One of the most important considerations when a couple decides to part ways is how they will continue to ensure the children are financially supported. Raising a child is one of the most significant expenses parents will face in their lifetimes, and child support ensures that both parents are still providing for their children even after a divorce or separation. In general, child support considers both parents’ incomes and how many children there are when determining child support, but in some cases, there may need to be additional factors included in the calculation. Learn more about what Section 7 expenses are and whether they should be part of your child support order.
What Is Section 7 in Child Support?
When you hear someone talk about Section 7 expenses in relation to child support, they are referring to the section of the legal code that talks about special and extraordinary expenses related to raising a child and how those expenses can factor into child support. Section 7 doesn’t apply to all child support cases, and you will generally need to be able to provide documentation that those expenses are necessary for your child’s quality of life — especially if the other parent doesn’t agree. What is considered an extraordinary expense under Section 7 can also depend on the parents’ incomes. For example, $500 a month in medical expenses may not be considered extraordinary for a parent with a very high income.
Types of Expenses That Can Be Included Under Section 7
Section 7 covers special and extraordinary expenses and defines those as “expenses that exceed those that the spouse requesting an amount for the extraordinary expenses can reasonably cover, taking into account that spouse’s income and the amount that the spouse would receive under the applicable table.” This is a fairly open-ended definition, which means that the judge has a great deal of discretion when it comes to how to handle these expenses and what might qualify. Below is a list of specific expenses outlined in the code that are common examples:
- Child care. If you have to pay for child care because you are working, going to school, or receiving medical care, that may be able to be factored into your child support.
- Health insurance premiums. Premiums may be able to be taken into account, although this is more common with higher amounts.
- Excessive health-related expenses. What is deemed “excessive” can be up to the judge’s discretion, but in general, the expenses must be more than $100 per year and not covered by any kind of insurance.
- School expenses. If your child requires special instruction or a specific learning environment due to disability or other needs, these expenses may be able to be accounted for in child support.
- College education. In some cases, one parent paying for a child’s college education can change the child support calculation.
- Extracurricular activities. Fees and expenses related to sports and other extracurricular activities can be added to child support in some situations.
If you’re not sure whether your situation might qualify under Section 7, talking with a lawyer can help.
How Section 7 Expenses Can Affect Your Child Support Amount
When a child support order is first being determined, the courts use a special formula that looks at how much it costs to raise a child and the parents’ incomes. This formula determines a base child support amount. However, if there is a situation that falls under the provisions in Section 7, it can mean that a deviation from that base amount is warranted. In many cases, these special expenses will raise the overall child support amount because it’s often the primary parent who is paying them. However, if the expenses are being paid by the noncustodial parent who is also the parent paying child support, it can lower the child support amount. If Section 7 expenses are going to be part of your order, it’s important to talk to a child support lawyer who can help you better understand what to expect.
Modifying an Existing Child Support Order
It’s generally better if any special circumstances can be factored into the child support when the order is first created. However, this isn’t always possible. Some people may try a DIY divorce and may not be aware that Section 7 exists or can be applied to the child support calculations. In other cases, the need may not be present at the time of the initial order. An example of this could be a medical issue that is identified years after the initial child support order is created that is going to require ongoing care and significant expenses. In these situations, you will likely need to ask the courts to modify the existing child support order.
If both parents are already in agreement that the child support order should be amended, this is usually a fairly cut and dried process, but sometimes, there is disagreement over whether the expenses should be factored in. In this case, you may need to speak with a lawyer about whether mediation can help resolve the conflict or if you need to move forward and present your case before a judge.
Child support can help ensure that the children are provided for and have everything they need. And sometimes, that means needing to factor in special circumstances that present an extraordinary financial burden. If you believe that you may have a situation that falls under Section 7 expenses, call Panko Collaborative Law & Mediation at (306) 518-8107. Our legal team has extensive experience helping clients understand Section 7 expenses and ensure that any relevant factors are being accounted for in their child support calculations.