As family law attorneys, we are frequently asked what types of expenses child support is supposed to cover. Although generally child support is to be used for expenses benefiting the child, the Indiana Child Support Guidelines (ICSG) give several examples of expenses that are called “controlled expenses” that are to be paid by the custodial parent, who is usually the parent receiving child support (see “Definition – Controlled Expenses” from ICSG below). Generally, “controlled expenses” are everyday expenses like school lunches and standard items that are not necessarily duplicated by parents such as clothing and backpacks. Parents should note that the guidelines do not give a definitive list of everything that could be considered a controlled expense, so some communication may be required between parties and counsel if there is a question about whether an expense falls into this category. Common situations where an issue arises occur when the children attend private school or require school supplies that are more expensive than normal. Parents in joint physical custody arrangements may also have to work together as their parenting time arrangement means that there is no designated “custodial parent.” In these situations, we usually counsel clients to designate a parent to serve as the custodial parents for the purpose of controlled expenses, or we encourage the parties to reach their own arrangements with respect to how controlled expenses are divided. As with many other advantages to informal settlement and mediation, the ability to reach agreements outside of court allows parties to tailor agreements to their children’s specific needs. Furthermore, addressing these types of issues in child support agreements may reduce disputes and litigation fees down the road.
Definition – Controlled Expenses: This type of expense for the child(ren) is typically paid by the custodial parent and is not transferred or duplicated. Controlled expenses are items like clothing, education, school books and supplies, ordinary uninsured health care and personal care. For example, the custodial parent buys a winter coat for the child. The noncustodial parent will not buy another one. The custodial parent controls this type of expense. The controlled expenses account for 15% of the cost of raising the child. The parenting time credit is based on the more time the parents share, the more expenses are duplicated and transferred. The controlled expenses are not shared and remain with the parent that does not get the parenting time credit. Controlled expenses are generally not a consideration unless there is equal parenting time. These categories of expenses are not pertinent for litigation. They are presented only to explain the factors used in developing the parenting time credit formula. The percentages were assigned to these categories after considering the treatment of joint custody by other states and examining published data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ Consumer Expenditure Survey.
What do you think? Have questions about controlled expenses? Tweet us @HARDENJACKSONLAW.