Divorce & Child Expenses – Part 2: How do we share expenses?

You may have an agreement with your ex to share certain expenses for your child. That’s good.  Next, discuss “how” these expenses will be funded or reimbursed.  You have several options.


The reimbursement method is a popular option.   One parent pays the expense (let’s say $40 dentist co-pay) and the other parent sends their portion (let’s say $20) to the first parent.  To avoid problems, you should take additional “timing” steps.

Step #1:  Decide when your ex will let you know that they paid the expense.  As soon as possible, but maybe not after  6 or 12 months?  Be clear or otherwise, your ex may deliver to you a 5 years old receipt.

Step #2:  Agree on how long you have to send a reimbursement for your portion.  Suggested turn-around times for reimbursements are 2-4 weeks.  Of course, you should be able to ask questions about the expense and payments if you have some uncertainty.

Keep track of your expenses and reimbursements.  If you have several children or a lot of expenses, the accounting quickly gets complicated.  Think about sending notes for reimbursements once a month or some other time frame that makes sense to you.   For example, you may agree you will send the January expenses on or by February 5.  Then on February 5, you will calculate what you paid and what your spouse paid.  One reimbursement will be necessary.  If you need help, there are programs that can track these expenses.

Joint bank account.

You may have a joint bank account that you can use for shared expenses.  Discuss two categories of joint bank account issues:  deposits and withdrawals.

Deposits. You need to be clear about how much you and your ex will deposit into this joint account and when you will make the deposits.  For example, if you think that the child’s expenses might be $2,000 a year and you both are paying for half, then you may want to each deposit $500 twice a year to the account. You should agree on a minimum balance in the joint account that will trigger you each making another deposit before the next scheduled one.

Withdrawals. You withdraw from the account to either pay a bill directly (cut a check to the soccer team) or to reimburse yourself.   Make sure you are both careful about not overdrawing this account

Joint credit card.

You may want to use a joint credit card for child related purchases.  You need to have an agreement about paying the credit card balance when it is due.

Combination of methods.

It is okay to use a combination of these methods.  For example, you may want to use a joint bank account for many of the on-going costs and then use the reimbursement method for some larger one-time expenses.  That’s okay.

How do we decide?

As your divorce mediator or collaborative attorney, I will help you discuss this issue with your spouse or if you are divorced, with your ex-spouse.   Together you will make decisions that are best for you and your family.  Contact me here to schedule a meeting.