- A get-your-hanky-out book and movie; or
- What you should be using to keep track of expenses; or
- All of the above.
Parents who are apart often have to share expenses. Some of these are statutory, health insurance, medical expenses, and child care, while others may be agreed upon, such as extracurricular activities. While it may seem simple to share the cost of routine expenses, people often get into disagreements as to how much is owed, or simple don’t pay their share. This often leads families back to court where they may spend more money in legal fees than they would have had they simply billed/or paid the expense. Here are some suggestions as to how to avoid these problems:
Have a clear agreement. Your final agreement or Order should be specific as to what each parent is obligated to pay for and what his/her share of that expense is. If you are paying for optical- are you agreeing to pay for contact lenses? If you are paying school expenses, does that include field trips or just pencils? If you are “sharing” is that 50/50 or some other amount?
Have a clear reimbursement scheme– If your agreement says that the parent who has incurred an expense will be reimbursed, what does that mean? What is the time frame? Language such as “the parent who has incurred the expense will provide proof to the other parent (i.e., receipt, cancelled check) within 2 weeks of incurring the expense and will be reimbursed within 2 weeks of providing proof” means that within 1 month that expense should be billed and reimbursed.
Keep Track! – This brings me to “The Notebook”. While there are many online programs for separated families that help track expenses and reimbursement, if you are not using one of them I cannot stress how helpful a simple 25¢ notebook be. As you make any payment, jot it down. For example: 9-4-18 $100 support paid by income deduction. When you incur an expense, have a chart: Date incurred/ Date sent/ what expense was for/ how much/ when was it reimbursed. If the other parent does not reimburse you, then you have a list of blanks and can easily make the calculations and prove what is owed to a court.
Many of my clients like to use spreadsheets, such as excel. The problem is that spreadsheets can easily be manipulated. While creating a spreadsheet from your notebook may be helpful, nothing works as well, or is as easily persuasive, as walking into court with your pile full of notebooks with records that are accurate and easy to read.
Don’t be “too busy.” A minute here and there keeping track of expenses and paying your share can save you a great deal of time, money, and aggravation in the long run.
Margaret C. Tabak has been an attorney since 1988, starting her career in Schenectady and moving her practice to Guilderland in 1995. The law firm is located in Great Oaks Office Park (near Crossgates Mall). Margaret counsels clients in all matters related to matrimonial and family law. A resident of Guilderland for more than 25 years, Margaret received her undergraduate degree from SUNY Albany and her law degree from Albany Law School. If you have questions about a matrimonial or family law issue, contact Margaret for a consultation.