Article credit to Our Family Wizard:
Parents and children must contend with many upheavals to their daily routines after a divorce or separation. Of the many adjustments, changes to financial situations often demand the most attention after a split.
As with any change, preparation is key for smoothing the transition. For parents with shared parenting time, that means anticipating the added financial costs incurred while parenting from separate households. This may not be the most enjoyable brainstorming session, but identifying the areas that will require extra funds as you begin your co-parenting routine means you won’t be unpleasantly surprised by mounting expenses.
To get your preparations started, here are 3 common areas that see increased expenditures for co-parents with shared parenting time.
This is the most obvious example of increased expenditures after a divorce or separation. Maintaining two households, either rented or owned, can double the amount parents previously spent on rent and utilities.
Because this change in expense can be monumental, parents should begin calculating what they can afford as early in their divorce or separation process as possible. Parents may want to consult a financial planner or personal advisor for help when calculating how much they can afford for monthly household expenditures.
While some financial planners do charge for their services, there are many pro bono or low-cost services available to parents with fewer resources to spare. As with all professional services, be sure to research practitioners thoroughly before employing their services.
Decisions about housing after a divorce or separation are more than just financial choices; they’re frequently emotional choices as well. Many parents must debate the pros and cons of leaving their family home for lodging that’s more in their budget. Pre-divorce memories of a child’s early years are precious, and parents may be heartbroken that they’ll no longer be reminded of moments like their child’s first steps just by walking into the living room.
Nevertheless, pursuing long-term financial stability by maintaining households within budget will ultimately benefit children, as well as help soothe parents’ stress levels. If parents do decide to move out of the familial home, they should talk to their children about the decision early and often. Children will be going through many transitions during a divorce and may need extra emotional support with this particular change.
TRAVEL & CHANGEOVERS
Not every co-parenting arrangement will produce significantly increased costs in this category, but it should still be a focus for parents who either have regularly scheduled changeovers or must accommodate long-distance travel.
Depending on how changeovers are handled by a family, parents may spend considerable money and time driving children to exchange locations or each other’s homes. If parents have personal vehicles, they’ll need to account for increased fuel usage as well as additional wear-and-tear on their cars.
To lessen the financial impact that this extra travel can incur, parents may want to consider changeovers that incorporate the child’s school schedule. If it actually results in less distance traveled, parents may opt for picking their child up from school on changeover days.
Additionally, depending on where you live, certain school districts may provide bus transportation to both parents’ homes when they share custody. Check with your local school district about the different arrangements available that accommodate two household families.
For situations where picking up a child from school would significantly increase the mileage for one parent, co-parents may want to find meeting places that divide driving responsibilities equally instead. Certain tools, like Meetways, can help families determine halfway points between locations quickly and easily. Utilizing tools such as this one keeps the planning of changeovers neutral and equitable.
Families that are co-parenting long-distance may not have a 50/50 split in parenting time, but they may still need to account for occasional trips between households.
The key to mitigating the costs associated with long-distance travel is planning well in advance. Last-minute tickets can be significantly more expensive if they’re even available at all, and parents will have fewer departure and arrival times from which to choose. Tickets don’t need to be purchased 6 months in advance, but parents should be keeping an eye on ticket prices in the months leading up to a trip.
For flights, certain services, like Kayak or Hopper, have tools that alert travelers to changes in prices for their selected travel dates and destinations. Though these tools aren’t foolproof, they can help keep parents on top travel planning.
Where one set of clothing, toiletries, and toys was adequate for a single-household family, co-parents with shared parenting time have to contend with the need for duplicate sets of all the daily essentials. For quickly growing children, sets of clothing, shoes, and outerwear never last as long as we’d like them to, so it’s vital that parents budget for these expenses.
For certain items, it may be appropriate for parents to share the cost. Big ticket items, like winter jackets or athletic supplies, may not need to be duplicated. Parenting plans should document any expenses that are to be shared between co-parents, including in what proportions, and co-parents should plan together and always provide thorough details for these purchases.
While it may feel financially expedient to simply pack a bag for a child moving between homes, this can have unintended consequences on how the child views their two-household family. Packing up their clothes, toys, and other incidentals to move between houses can make a child feel like they’re visiting, rather than as having a permanent place in the hearts and homes of both parents.
Not packing an entire suitcase is a separate issue from them asking to bring along their favorite stuffed animal or pair of PJs. If they do wish to pack a few of their favorite items, let them! Just make sure that they have those items when they change over to their other parent.
Co-parenting smoothly requires preparation, so parents should think critically about the additional expenses that will pop-up as they transition into parenting from two households. Taking the time to anticipate these expenses may not be the most pleasant task, but being surprised by these additional costs will be worse. To mitigate the effects of these additional expenses for everyone involved, co-parents should work together to create solutions for the entire family. Plan changeovers equitably, keep everyone in the loop about the purchases of big-ticket items and be sure to always keep a careful eye on your budget.