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How Do Frederick County Lawyers and Judges Address Issues of Summertime Daycare Expenses?

As you may recall, in previous articles we have discussed and explained how child day care, defined as “work related child care,” has a significant impact upon the child support guidelines in a particular case. Those guidelines are set forth in the Maryland Annotated Code, Family Law Article Sections 12-101 through 12-204.

As previously discussed, one calculates the “basic” child support obligation for a non-custodial parent and then certain qualified expenses borne by the primary custody parent then get added onto the “total” child support obligation.  Day care or “work related child care” is one of those add on expenses.

For example: If a custodial parent in Frederick earns 1/4 of the parents’ combined incomes, the non-custodial parent in Urbana owes 3/4 of any daycare expenses and his child support obligation is increased by 3/4 of that expense. So, if a payee parent pays (or claims to pay) $800 in daycare, it increases the bottom line child support by $600 !!

In short, a parent who pays child support really pays support plus a percentage of the other parent’s “work related child care.”  Often a large, even a disproportionate, amount of that child care.

Summer vacation and day care

Of importance for this article is that different Frederick daycare providers have different policies regarding summer vacation and those policies can prove an issue of contention for single and divorcing parents. With respect to summer vacation and daycare there are several things we need to keep in mind.

The 1st:  52 weeks of day care can cost 54 weeks of tuition.  Day care providers in Frederick who are private “home based” providers and don’t work within a school setting often put into their day care contract that the parents have to make alternative arrangements for 1 or 2 weeks of day care in the summer.

In effect, the day care provider will take a vacation and the parents will still be responsible for their weekly or monthly day care of obligation but the daycare provider will not be caring for the child or children during that 1 or 2 week period.

The first time I heard about this policy I thought it sounded pretty obnoxious.  After  thinking about it, I am sure it is obnoxious.  What other small business or sole proprietorship charges people when they are closed for business??  Nevertheless, it is a fact of life.

In the interest of being fair, I am advised that the day care industry in the new economy has suffered a great deal . The new economy is of course a euphemism for the financial and economic doldrums in which the country now finds itself morassed. When parents in Frederick began to lose jobs there was an immediate effect upon enrollments and it was a disaster.

Then as the economy continued to flounder, people made other arrangements, sometimes eliminating part-time work for one spouse in favor of a savings in child care.  Of course, there are also grandparents and relatives who have become unemployed and/or taken early retirement.  In the end, it has flattened out but there are 25% fewer children in day care today than there were in 2007.

So with respect to this first dilemma; single, divorced and divorcing parents find it necessary to make alternative day care arrangements for that 1 week or 2 weeks of vacation that the daycare provider takes.
In some ideal cases the child or children spend this same time with one or each of the parents.  In other cases, the parents put the child or children in a summer camp and in yet some other cases the child or children have a “staycation” with one of the parents or a relative.

This sometimes poses a question as to which parent is responsible to a make the alternative arrangements, pay for those arrangements and/or take time off from work if necessary.  In the end, a payor parent in this scenario might pay a $625 per month for his day care contribution.

The 2nd:  52 weeks of day care can cost 50 weeks of tuition.  Another day care, vacation problem that people in Frederick face is a problem that most normal parents are happy to have.

In some of the school based day care contracts in Frederick a family actually accrues a vacation benefit.  For example, Celebree Day Care offers a free week with each calendar year up to a maximum of two weeks from the third year forward.  There is not only no closed week that the family pays for enrollment but in fact during the family vacation there is no charge for the child or children’s enrollment.

Believe it or not, this can provoke a dispute.  Was the child support calculated on 50 weeks of day care not 52?   At the above $800 per month daycare figure that really equates to $767 per month not $800 if it is a 50 week obligation.

Employing the above ratios that means the ¾ obligation would be $575.25 per month versus $600.  Some people would call that splitting hairs.  By another way of thinking, $25 per month is $300 per year.
If you face either of the above scenarios communication with the other parent is always the preferred way the sort out the financial nuance of your day care provider’s policies.  In the end how you handle it is up to you but if the parents can’t agree the judge will often go strictly by the numbers.

Timothy Conlon, Esquire for The Custody Place


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