Are Cell Phones a Child Support Issue or a Special Expense?

When you’re negotiating custody and child support issues, the issue of cell phones—and who pays for them—may come up. If your child is old enough to have a cell phone, many couples debate about whether child support should cover it, or if that’s considered a “special expense.”

What is a special expense?

These special expenses are defined under federal child support guidelines as “special or extraordinary expenses,” such as out-of-pocket medical costs, extracurricular activities, childcare and more.

To qualify as a special expense, it should be necessary for the child’s best interests, reasonable in relation to the incomes of the parents and the child and reasonable in relation to the family’s spending pattern, prior to the divorce. The parents share a proportion of the expense, commensurate with their incomes.

Is a cell phone a special expense?

Generally, cell phones are not considered a special expense—but you can agree to treat cell phone expenses however you like in mediation. Some parents agree to split the cost of a cell phone proportionally, considering it a special expense, while others may agree that the monthly child support will cover the bill. If you can’t come to an agreement and have to litigate the issue in court, however, it’s likely that cell phones will not be treated as a special expense absent extraordinary circumstances.

Finally, when deciding on how to treat the cell phone issue, be sure to discuss whose plan the phone will be on, rules for screentime and supervision and how you expect the other parent to care for the phone itself. Your mediator will help you set general expectations and come to an agreement on how to pay for the cellphone.

To learn more about divorce mediation, call the experienced Long Island divorce mediators at Solutions Divorce Mediation today.

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