The Finances of Joint Custody Agreements: 10 Things You Must Know

Ending a marriage can be difficult, but don't let that deter you from working with your ex to help ensure your children are taken care of financially.

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Ending a marriage, especially when a child (or multiple children) is involved, is challenging on so many levels. We’ll deal here with the personal finances of co-parenting, and there’s a lot of money at stake -- and we’re betting that you don’t want to be on the losing end of any financial dealings with your ex. In addition to splitting assets accumulated over the years with your soon-to-be former spouse, you’ll need to find some common ground to map out a plan to fund the care and support of your kids until they’re at least 18 years old.

The state court system steers divorcing couples toward a divorce decree, which is a court order detailing the agreed-upon conditions of your divorce. It establishes alimony and child-support payments, sets a visitation schedule for the noncustodial parent, establishes new beneficiaries for financial assets, and divides any shared debt, according to LegalZoom.com (opens in new tab).

“It’s often hard for those going through a divorce to focus on the now -- and the future,” says Lazetta Rainey Braxton, a certified financial planner and chair of the Association of African American Financial Advisors (opens in new tab) (AAAA). You’ll need to be organized and transparent, and you must advocate for yourself and your family during the negotiation process. “The clearer you are about what you can afford, the better you’ll be able to negotiate your part in caring for your children,” Rainey Braxton adds.

Once the divorce decree has been finalized, it becomes legally binding. So if you decide a year or two later that you’d like to make modifications, that can get pricey because it requires going back to court.

We’ve talked with several experts about how to best navigate child-related money matters after a divorce -- from claiming dependents on a tax return to having financial check-ins with your ex. Here’s what they had to say.

Andrea Browne Taylor
Online Editor, Kiplinger.com
Browne Taylor joined Kiplinger in 2011 and is a channel editor for Kiplinger.com covering living and family finance topics. She previously worked at the Washington Post as a Web producer in the Style section and prior to that covered the Jobs, Cars and Real Estate sections. She earned a BA in journalism from Howard University in Washington, D.C.