Under Minnesota law, parents have the obligation of financially supporting their children. The child support statutes provide for basic child support, child care support and medical support. Basic child support is the sum paid by one parent to the other for basic expenses of the child or children. Child care support is the allocation between the parents of day care, before-school and after-school expenses. (Medical support is the allocation between the parents of a child’s health insurance and health care expenses.)
Most of the time, when a child is old enough not to attend daily child care, the parents agree that time has come, and the child is no longer enrolled in day care. In some cases, what begins as a looming dispute about continuing a child in day care is resolved by the parents’ mutual desire to unload the financial burden of child care costs.
So what if the dispute persists? There is no set age when a child no longer needs supervision. It depends on the individual child and his or her level of maturity. Moreover, many custody neutrals and parenting consultants are precluded from addressing financial issues. The issue of child care is both a co-parenting issue and a financial issue.
The issue has the potential to land before the family court for decision. That is the result if the parents disagree about whether to incur the child care costs AND the parents cannot agree on a method for resolving the dispute outside of family court. If the parents cannot agree about the decision, they would be well-served to at least agree on how to arrive at the decision, whether that be mediation or a custody neutral who is appointed to make the decision. As with so many other family law issues, the family court should be the last resort.