If a parent is ordered to pay child support, it is likely that the child support obligation will include a “basic” support obligation, coupled with child care support and medical support. Orthodontia costs are included as part of medical support. Basic support is based upon the income of both parents, based upon a statutory table (similar to income tax tables). But the child care support and medical support are allocated between the parents based upon each parent’s percentage of income.
For instance, a parent whose income comprises sixty percent (60%) of the combined income of the parents (after payment of spousal maintenance, if any) will be responsible for sixty percent (60%) of the child care expenses and medical expenses.
The rationale for the special treatment of child care support and medical expenses is (a) for some children, parents incur child care expenses and for some, they do not; therefore, it would not work out for the same statutory table to be used for both families that do, and those that do not, incur child care costs; and (b) medical expenses (and the insurance coverage thereof) are unpredictable, and variable across families; therefore, it also would not work out for the same table to apply to all families regardless of their medical costs.
Since orthodontic expenses are sometimes elective and/or optional, there is the potential for disputes between parents about whether or not to incur orthodontic expenses. Parents who share joint legal custody share the authority to decide on orthodontia for their children. That is not to say that either parent has veto power over the expenditure of funds on orthodontic care. A family court or parenting neutral charged with the authority to decide the dispute will issue a decision based upon all facts and circumstances, with a focus on what is in the child’s best interests.