Family Law

How Does Divorce Affect the Children Financially?

By Kristina Otterstrom, Attorney
Addressing the financial impact of your divorce on your kids.

How Will Divorce Affect My Children’s Overall Lifestyle?

Running two households is more expensive than running one. This usually means there is less money to go around after a divorce. Generally, a court will order spousal support to help a needy spouse maintain something similar to the standard of living enjoyed during the couple’s marriage. But in some situations, especially where a spouse has lost a high-paying job or has extreme medical bills, you and your spouse’s post-divorce lifestyles may be very different.

As part of your divorce case, a judge require that each spouse file financial declarations, which itemize all monthly income and expenses like rent, car payments, utility costs, telephone bills, and medical insurance premiums. A judge will base alimony and child support awards on each spouse’s financial situation. Divorce may make paying for some things a little more difficult initially, but you and your children will likely adjust over time.

Which Parent Pays A Child’s Extracurricular Activities After Divorce?

Both parents have an ongoing financial duty to support their children. Your divorce decree or support order may specify which parent is responsible for covering a child’s extracurricular activities. If it doesn’t, either parent’s financial responsibility for a child’s outside activities will depend on the laws of your state.

If funds are tight, your child might have to give up a favorite hobby, like ballet or karate lessons. In several states, like Utah, the parent who registers a child for an extracurricular activity will have to foot the bill unless the other parent agrees or the divorce decree allows. In other states, a judge may require parents to split the costs of extracurricular activities.

What Happens If One Parent Loses a Job?

Child support and spousal support is based largely upon each parent’s income, so if a parent’s income changes, it may be time to change an existing child support award. If the parent paying child support receives a major promotion and accompanying raise, a judge can increase that parent’s child support obligation. Likewise, a court may decrease a parent’s support obligation in the event of a permanent job loss or debilitating illness.

A loss of child support can affect your children financially. Child support is intended to cover the costs to clothe, feed, and otherwise care for your children, so it may become difficult to make ends meet if your support payments decrease. In some situations, a court can impute income to a parent who has lost a job or taken a lower paying job. When a judge imputes income, the court bases a child support award on what a parent should be earning, rather than what he or she actually earns. This can help limit the financial impact of divorce on your children.

Questions for Your Attorney

  • My spouse and I can’t afford our lifestyle as it is. What happens to our children’s lifestyle when we divorce?
  • Our children currently attend a very expensive private school and are excelling there. I want to keep my kids at this school, but my spouse wants them to attend public school. What can I do?
  • My spouse quit her high-paying executive job, and now says she can’t pay me child support. Do I have any recourse?

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