Raising a child is an expensive undertaking. In August 2013, a CNN Money report estimated that the cost for medium income families to raise a child from birth to the age of 18 is an estimated $241,080 or $13,393 per year. That’s a significant amount of money. While Minnesota has statutory child support guidelines to help a parent with the cost of raising a child, these guidelines only address the very basic of needs and do not address the “extras” that many parents see as essential. So it raises the question, what does and doesn’t child support in Minnesota cover?
In Minnesota, there are three types of child support: 1) Basic Support, 2) Child Care Support, and 3) Medical Support. Basic support is intended to cover the costs of a child’s basic living necessities such as food, clothing, transportation, education costs, and other necessary expenses related to a child’s care. Child Care Support is intended to cover a percentage of the child’s childcare expenses. Medical Support is intended to cover a percentage of the child’s medical and dental insurance premium expenses.
Any parent knows the expenses of a child go far beyond the three types of support covered by statute. We live in an age where children begin to participate in extra-curricular activities as early as 2 years old. Gymboree classes, music lessons, little leagues, private clubs, enrichment classes and camps are the norm rather than the exception. And let’s not forget those extras that come later in a child’s life such as cell phones, driver’s education training, car insurance, prom, and college tuition. Consequently, its hard to explain to my clients why these costs are not considered by the courts in setting and modifying child support and that if they want their child to have these experiences, they may have to do so without the financial support of the other parent. I frequently have clients complain that the other parent refuses to contribute to these extra costs, arguing, “that’s what child support is for”. But as we’ve just pointed out, Minnesota child support doesn’t contemplate these extras. Can a child live without these extras? -Sure they can. Is their life going to be enriched by having them? – ABSOLUTELY! And as parents, don’t you want to give your child all the enriching life experiences you can?
Consider the following list of extras that child support does not cover:
- School photos, yearbooks
- Extra curricular activity fees, including registration fees, try out fees, uniforms and equipment costs
- Private sport clubs and traveling team fees, including transportation and lodging fees
- Music lessons, instrument rental or purchase fees, instrument maintenance fees
- Recital costumes and fees
- Academic tutoring
- Private school tuition
- Birthday party gifts for children’s friends
- Cell phones
- Prom attire, corsage/boutonniere, and prom ticket
- Driver education training, car insurance, license and registration fees
- College funds
If you are negotiating a divorce/child custody matter be sure to consider including these extra expenses in your final settlement agreement. If you already have a child support order, consider what extra expenses are not covered next time a parent raises the issue of sharing a particular non-covered expense.
Li-Kuehne v. Kuehne, No. A07-807, 2007 WL 2600814 (Minn. Ct. App. Sept. 11, 2007)