How Do we Share Child-Care Costs?

One of the great things about marriage (among many) is you always have a built-in babysitter. Whether it's mom staying home with the kids, or dad caring for the kids while mom is at work, you adjust schedules so you don't incur child-care costs.

And then you divorce, and everything changes.

Sometimes, you can still make schedules work so you don't pay for babysitters, but this is exponentially harder than during your marriage. In Utah divorces, almost invariably, there is not enough money to go around, so both parents have to work. And when both parents work, people pay for child-care.

Recognizing this fact of divorce, how do you address child-care costs?

Utah Law Regarding What Child-Care Costs to Include in Divorce Decrees and Paternity Orders

Here's what Utah law has to say about what child-care costs should be included in divorce decrees and paternity orders:

Child care costs. 


The need to include child care costs in the child support order is presumed, if the custodial parent or the noncustodial parent, during extended parent-time, is working and actually incurring the child care costs.



The need to include child care costs is not presumed, but may be awarded on a case-by-case basis, if the costs are related to the career or occupational training of the custodial parent, or if otherwise ordered by the court in the interest of justice.



The court may impute a monthly obligation for child care costs when it imputes income to a parent who is providing child care for the minor child of both parties so that the parties are not incurring child care costs for the child. Any monthly obligation imputed under this section shall be applied towards any actual child care costs incurred within the same month for the child.

Utah Code, Section 78B-12-215.

So, the law really breaks child-care expenses in to two categories.

1. Child-care necessitated by work.

If work requires child-care costs, then it is presumed those costs will be included in a divorce decree (or a paternity order).

2. Child-care necessitated by career or occupational training of the custodial parent.

This really refers to schooling (e.g., college) or other occupational training. While including these costs is not required, they are almost always ordered by a judge or included in a negotiated settlement.

Utah Law Regarding Sharing Child-Care Costs.

Now that we've established what category of costs will be included in divorce and paternity, let's see what Utah law has to say about how parents share those costs:

Child care expenses


The child support order shall require that each parent share equally the reasonable work-related child care expenses of the parents.




If an actual expense for child care is incurred, a parent shall begin paying his share on a monthly basis immediately upon presentation of proof of the child care expense, but if the child care expense ceases to be incurred, that parent may suspend making monthly payment of that expense while it is not being incurred, without obtaining a modification of the child support order.




In the absence of a court order to the contrary, a parent who incurs child care expense shall provide written verification of the cost and identity of a child care provider to the other parent upon initial engagement of a provider and thereafter on the request of the other parent.



In the absence of a court order to the contrary, the parent shall notify the other parent of any change of child care provider or the monthly expense of child care within 30 calendar days of the date of the change.



In addition to any other sanctions provided by the court, a parent incurring child care expenses may be denied the right to receive credit for the expenses or to recover the other parent's share of the expenses if the parent incurring the expenses fails to comply with Subsection (2)(b).

Utah Code, Section 78B-12-214.

So, the law mandates parents equally share work-related child-care costs.

You can always bargain around a 50/50 split, but if you go to trial, you can count on a judge ordering 50/50.

Notice the laws talk about "actually incurring child care costs" and "actual expenses incurred." This is referring to out-of-pocket costs. You only have to share and reimburse monies actually paid for child-care services.

So, if your ex-mother-in-law watches the kids everyday, you don't have to reimburse her for that.

(Now, if your ex-mother-in-law ran a legit daycare and she was watching your kids as part of that, and you ex is paying for those services, then you may have to pay. Honestly, though, what I just described is way less than 1% of cases.)

How Child-Care Costs Are Split in Real Life Utah Divorce and Child Custody Situations.

We talked about the law, but how does all this work out in most Utah divorce and paternity cases? 

You end up sharing equally work-related and school-related child-care costs -- almost always.

There are some select situations in which one person makes so much more than the other that one person pays 100%. This really only happens in negotiation though; I have never seen a judge order someone to pay 100% of child-care costs on a permanent basis.

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