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New USDA report is resource in child support determinations

Spokane residents know that life is expensive, especially when children are involved. Whether it is clothing and food expenses, medical care, extracurricular activities or other expenses, the list of children's needs is almost never-ending. Raising a family can be financially taxing for many couples. The financial burden can become even greater after a divorce, however, when one parent may end up providing for most of the child's daily needs. Although child support is designed to provide for the welfare of children and initial determinations rely on a variety of factors, sometimes modifications of child support become necessary.

A new report released by the U.S. Department of Agriculture indicates that children raised in middle-income families cost over $240,000 over a 17-year period. The report, entitled Expenditures on Children by Families, states that this estimated cost is 2.6 higher than in 2011. The greatest categorical increases contributing to the overall higher cost were education, clothing, health care and child care. Other expenses considered in the calculations included housing, transportation, food and miscellaneous expenses. Although the cost has risen since 2011, the increase from last year is less than the average increase of 4.4 percent since 1960. This report is used by state governments and court systems for calculating payments related to foster care and child support.

As this report notes, there are many costs associated with raising children. Each parent's child support contributions depend not only on custodial arrangements but also on each parent's financial circumstances. Many parents with primary physical custody do not pay child support but receive support payments from the non-custodial parent. The exact dollar amount depends not only on both parents' incomes but also on other factors. For example, if the non-custodial parent has health insurance through work, he or she may provide the health care for their children, which would likely be considered in a child support determination.

However, life is full of unexpected changes and sometimes a change in life circumstances necessitates modifications of child support. For example, if a parent loses his job, he may not be able to contribute at the same level as he did prior to the job. Similarly, if a parent loses healthcare coverage, she may need more assistance from the support-paying parent to cover new healthcare expenses. When these changes occur, it is important to act proactively, working with both the other parent and the court system to determine a new child support arrangement that is satisfactory to all parties. An experienced family law attorney can help facilitate this process by providing information on how child support calculations are made and by assisting negotiations.

Source: Farm and Dairy, "What's the cost of raising a child?," Aug. 24, 2013

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