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How to split back-to-school expenses when you’re divorced

Assuming that you and your co-parent both recognize that neither of you should have to shoulder the back-to-school costs for the kids alone, it’s time to have a conversation or two about how to handle the upcoming school year.

Here are a few things you and your co-parent should probably talk about soon:

How much is your back-to-school budget?

On average, parents are budgeting $597 this year per child for their back-to-school shopping. While that’s down a little from last year, that’s only because a lot of parents are cutting back on anything they see as “non-essential.” Inflation is making everybody feel the financial pinch. Talk with your co-parent to see if you can strategize and divide the “must-haves” from the “would-be-nice-to-haves” on your child’s shopping list. You should also discuss ongoing monthly school fees, whether that’s transportation costs, school lunches or extracurricular fees and equipment. You should also include things like school photos, yearbooks, prom or homecoming and school field trips in your talks.

How will you split school expenses?

If you have fairly equal incomes, the easiest thing to do is to simply tally up the receipts and divide the total down the middle so that you can each pay half. If you have vastly different incomes, however, it may be fairer for one spouse to pay, for example, 75% of the costs while the other only pays 25%.

Will you divide the shopping duties?

If you divide the shopping duties, money may not even have to change hands. For example, if you agree to pick up the electronics your children need for school and pay for their school lunches each month, and your co-parent agrees to buy their school uniforms and cover the band instrument rentals, you can each take care of your responsibilities without involving the other. This might be ideal if your conversations with your ex tend to be difficult or you’re not comfortable handing them cash, since you can easily keep a record of exactly what you contributed to your child’s needs.

Ideally, you and your ex will develop a healthy co-parent dynamic as your situation continues to evolve. When that’s not possible, however, don’t hesitate to seek legal support to address your concerns.