March 2009 - Recession Co-Parenting
The recession has hit all of us where it hurts the most Ė in our wallets.
If youíre looking for ways to save money, donít forget to look to
your co-parenting agreement for ways to make some cuts.
Reduce Legal Fees
If you are currently in a divorce or are back in court arguing over an existing
custody plan, think about how much money you are spending in legal costs. Your
attorney is likely charging you upwards of $150 or $200 an hour. Thatís
a lot of money to spend on something so unpleasant as a divorce or custody fight.
Obviously, getting a fair divorce settlement or a custody plan that works for
your child is very important, but there are lots of ways you can reduce your
- Try to work it out. Yes, I know youíre in court because you canít
agree, but if you point out to your ex how much money youíre throwing
away over this, it might be possible to sit down in a calm and rational way
and work something out yourselves. Almost every case settles before trial, so
why not work the settlement out yourselves instead of paying lawyers to do it?
- Consider mediation. If you canít work it out on your own, hire a mediator
to help you do it. Your net cost is going to be much lower than paying for a
- Hire collaborative lawyers instead of trial lawyers. These are attorneys who
use a cooperative process to reach a settlement everyone can live with. They
wonít appear in court and your costs will be lower.
Reduce Babysitting Costs
Instead of paying babysitters, agree with your ex that you will use each other
as sitters. If you are both doing this, it probably wonít change the bottom
line division of the time that you each have with your child over a monthís
time. If one of you has been laid off or is currently unemployed, reduce day
care costs by allowing that parent to provide the care needed. And if youíre
wondering why you should provide free child care for your ex Ė remember,
there really is only one pot of money that supports both of you and your child.
If your ex can save some money, it will make it more possible for him to meet
his child support and alimony responsibilities. It will also benefit your child
to spend time with a parent instead of a sitter.
Even if you have a testy relationship with your exís parents, they are
still your childís grandparents, so asking them to babysit benefits them
and your child, and saves you a nice chunk of change on babysitting. Being polite
for five minutes is going to be worth the money you will save.
Cut Down on Transportation Costs
Many parents have a visitation plan that allows the non-custodial parent to
see the child every other weekend and every Wednesday. Whether youíre
sharing the transportation costs or your ex does all the driving, compacting
those visits down can shave some mileage and gas costs. Instead of having a
week where visitation happens Wednesday and then also that Friday through Sunday,
adjust the schedule so visitation happens Thursday through Sunday, removing
two round trips from the equation.
Rethink Health Insurance
Many child support orders direct one of the parents to provide health insurance
for the child. Itís important for your child to have health insurance,
but it pays to sit down once a year and compare the plans available to both
of you through your employers. If you ex had been carrying the child on his
insurance, but your plan costs less for a family plan, switch the child to your
plan and have your ex pay you the difference between a single and family plan.
He will end up with a net savings, and youíll be in control of managing
the health insurance. This works in reverse as well. If you were ordered to
provide the insurance, but your ex has a less expensive plan, putting the child
on that plan and paying your ex the difference saves you money.
Likewise, be sure to compare Flexible Spending Accounts (FSAs) available through
your employers. These plans allow you to set money aside pre-tax to pay for
medical costs and day care costs. If your employee offers such a plan, it makes
sense for you to pay those costs through it and have your ex reimburse you for
the costs he is responsible for under your child support order.
Note that even if you both agree to make a change such as this, it is a good
idea to submit the agreement to the court as a stipulation so that it becomes
part of the court order and there can be no disagreement about it.