06/11/2014 02:08 pm ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

What Child Support Does Not Cover

embrassed child
Nobody said that raising children was cheap. While we have child support in Texas specifically to help with raising children and addressing their financial needs, even maximum child support at times does not address the "extras" that many of my clients think of as the "essentials." This is the case for many states across the country.

So, while the primary parent fights so hard to receive child support and to have the majority of possession time with his precious child, sometimes it feels like the parent who is paying child support gets away with a much better deal.

Just like the credit card commercial:

Prom dress? $200
Manicure for prom? $30
Daughter's hairstylist for prom? $80

Dad telling teenage daughter that "her mother gets child support to pay for these things" and then refusing to pay?


We live in an age where children start with music classes at age three, little league baseball at five, and piano lessons at six. Consequently, it is hard to explain to my clients that if they want a better life of enrichment, attention and excellence for their kids, they need to pony up the cash to do it without help from the other parent. Even when this means that 100% of their child support is being used to pay for daycare expenses, child support often does not cover the "extras" that I outline below.

The following is a list of examples of the "extras" one might contemplate when negotiating a divorce decree to split with the other parent so that your children can have more opportunities. While courts will likely not mandate the parent paying child support to provide any of the below "extras," when clients analyze the amount of child support that they may receive, I highly recommend contemplating what child support does NOT include (the following list is based on the Texas Family Code, but is likely very similar in your state).

For younger children:

  • Daycare
  • Afterschool care
  • Nannies or babysitters

For school-age children, extracurricular activities including:

  • School photos, yearbooks
  • Registration, uniforms, equipment and fees of sports
  • Select sports, traveling teams, club teams
  • Private lessons, i.e., music, voice, dance, tennis
  • Musical instruments rental or purchase fees
  • Recital fees, costumes
  • Enrichment camps
  • Academic tutoring

Later in life high school and post-high school ventures:

  • Your child's first car; car insurance
  • College funds
  • Wedding funds

Even if your working spouse was providing for these things when you were married, they are not covered by child support in many states (including Texas, where I practice family law). This is often also the case in other states but you need to consult directly with an attorney licensed in your state to know for certain.

The moral of the story:

When budgeting for divorce and adapting your lifestyle from being married to being single, you need to think about what child support covers. And sometimes, you have to bite the bullet, pay for the things that your child needs to have an enriched life, and ignore the fact that the law only mandates a floor and not a ceiling when it comes to child support.

This post neither constitutes nor is intended to be legal advice. Please be advised that if you need legal counsel, you should consult an attorney regarding your individual situation.