Does Child Support Include Daycare Costs in California?

Babies playing at daycare

When two parents begin divorce proceedings, they need to agree on sharing parental responsibilities. But, unfortunately, some divorcing parents can’t agree on custody and child support. When that happens, it may be necessary to take the matter to court.

The judge will consider the child’s best interest in court and divide up custody accordingly. In addition, a standard formula based on each parent’s income calculates child support. 

When child support is calculated, it’s crucial to determine who pays for daycare after divorce. Daycare facilities are a practical choice for many working parents, with the total cost of daycare depending on factors such as the child’s age and custodial parent’s schedule. However, without a proper daycare payment agreement, this could easily become a contentious issue for divorcing parents.

California Child Support Laws Explained 

California child support guidelines are designed to help you, and your co-parent agree on the appropriate child support amount that should be allocated to your child. Most parents assume that child support guidelines recommend a specific predetermined payment amount, but that’s not necessarily true. 

There are a lot of expenses, such as daycare costs, not covered when child support is calculated using the California standard formula of calculating child support. For this reason, the custodial parent should agree with the non-custodial parent to ensure their child receives the financial support they need. 

While child support primarily covers the child’s expenses, it may also be used to improve the living standard of the custodial parent. However, this doesn’t mean that the custodial parent should use child support money as they please.

Who Should Pay for Daycare After Divorce?

According to the California Family Code Section 406(a), when the court calculates child support that the non-custodial parent has to pay, it considers daycare costs necessary for the custodial parent to continue with their education or work. Therefore, this rule ensures that the custodial parent can continue their work or education without being overburdened with high daycare costs.

It’s common for each parent to pay half of the daycare costs if they earn almost the same income. The amount will automatically be deducted from the non-custodial parent’s paycheck and distributed to the custodial parent who pays for daycare services. 

In some cases, the custodial parent may request a disproportional payment of daycare costs if the other parent has a higher income than them. The court will decide whether or not to grant the request. 

It’s much easier for the court to determine precisely how much each parent will pay for daycare costs if the child was enrolled in a daycare program before the child support case.

However, this isn’t always the case because there’s no law requiring the non-custodial parent paying for child support to pay any extra costs for daycare unless the court rules so. Note that daycare costs aren’t usually part of basic child support awards; the expenses included in monthly child support calculations are as follows:

  • monetary support for basic needs (food, clothing, and shelter);
  • health insurance;
  • back payments;
  • interest on back payments.

For this reason, it’s essential to have foresight during child support cases to cover topics such as daycare that may raise such issues in the future. 

For instance, if you’re the custodial parent who needs to work or go to school, consider addressing the issue ahead of time to minimize future disputes and avoid financial distress.

The situation can get even more complicated if the custodial parent doesn’t go to school or work consistently; hence, daycare expenses fluctuate month-to-month. Differences may arise when daycare costs aren’t determined before a settlement or vary from time to time. For this reason, it’s never advisable to sign a settlement without consulting a qualified California child custody attorney.

What if the Custodial Parent Takes Unfair Advantage of the Parent Paying Child Support?

There are cases where the custodial parent goes to work or school and leaves the child with their parents (the child’s grandparents). The child’s grandparents assume the role of daycare providers, and the custodial parent demands payment for the same.

There’s nothing wrong with grandparents acting as childcare providers while the custodial parent is away and receiving payment. However, the main issue is whether or not such services are being offered in good faith. 

In some cases, the custodial parent may do so to divert daycare money toward the grandparents at the expense of the other parent. The custodial parent may also receive the daycare money while falsely claiming to pay the grandparents for daycare services.

California child support guidelines aren’t clear regarding family or friends providing daycare services; you should seek legal advice before confronting your co-parent about it. The real question should be whether the daycare costs are reasonable considering the non-custodial parent’s ability to pay for them. 

At What Age Should the Non-Custodial Parent Stop Paying for Daycare Costs?

Suppose you and your co-parent have a four-year-old child, and you’re the non-custodial parent. The custodial parent works full-time and is rarely home during the day. In this case, including daycare costs in the amount you pay as child support makes sense.

Assume a few years go by, and your child turns ten years old. After school, your child goes for soccer practice and doesn’t get home until 5 pm. By 5 pm, the custodial parent will have arrived home from work. In this case, there’s no need for the non-custodial parent to continue paying for daycare.

The best thing to do is attempt to re-negotiate the amount you pay to cover daycare costs. However, California child support guidelines are unclear on how to handle all situations; predicting what amounts should be used to pay expenses such as daycare can be difficult. 

In theory, child support ends when a child turns 18. However, the age at which you should stop paying for child care expenses isn’t explicitly mentioned in child support guidelines and is subject to negotiations by you and your co-parent. 

Should You Consult a Lawyer?

If you have questions about your legal rights and obligations pertaining to child support, Castro Law Offices, P.C. can help provide answers.

Castro Law Offices, P.C. is a premier California law firm specializing in child support issues, divorce, child custody, and all other issues concerning domestic relations. Castro Law Offices, P.C. is based in Novato, California, but is ready and able to provide legal services and advice to clients in and around Marin County including Novato, San Rafael, Greenbrae, San Anselmo, Fairfax, Sausalito, Larkspur, West Marin, Ross, Mill Valley and Corte Madera. Contact Castro Law Offices, P.C. today to schedule a confidential consultation.

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