The purpose of child support is to ensure that the child of divorcing parents maintains the same standard of living after the divorce that he or she enjoyed prior to it. Therefore, Montana courts take a number of factors into consideration when determining the amount of child support owed, including the child's age, educational and medical needs, physical/emotional condition and the financial resources of each parent, as well as those of the child. If the child requires day care, the court will also consider that cost, and if either parent is legally obligated to support any person other than the child, the court will take into account that person's needs as well.
Child support goes beyond providing for basic necessities, such as food, clothing, shelter, etc. In the interest of maintaining the child's quality of life, the custodial parent may put child support payments toward the many expenses involved in raising a child. Some of the most common expenses include the following:
- Travel and transportation
- Extracurricular activities and entertainment
- Educational expenses
Separated and divorced parents must also provide for their child's health care needs. If one parent has more comprehensive health insurance coverage from an employer than the other parent, the court will usually decide that that parent must include the child on his or her insurance plan. However, insurance may not cover all health-related expenses, such as eyeglasses, orthodontic appliances and co-pays for office visits. If the child requires any of these services, the custodial parent may use child support in order to pay for them.
The court will not monitor the spending habits of the custodial parent or require him or her to demonstrate where child support payments are going unless there is reason to believe that the parent is failing to meet the child's needs.