A colleague asks how to resolve the issue of child care costs and child support modification when the custodial parent cannot find/afford reliable day care and has, in the past, lost her job because of inability to conform her schedule to the employer schedule. This Mom finally, in order to work, has been paying her teenage children $50 per week to watch their little sister (the child of the payer of support, not of school age). Thus, Mom was able to find a job last August. Fifty dollars per week is far less than the cost of available child care costs during the 35-40 hours per week while mom works in the restaurant field. Mom cannot afford to pay a licensed day care and the father has not been paying reasonable child support that includes child care. The Referee questions whether the child care costs are actually being paid to the teenager, and questions whether she can include this in the computation. The children are in the care of the father half the time.
Common questions are: How old must a child be to be left home alone . . .or to be left alone in the care of a sibling? A couple of other questions and concerns arise:
1) Is the childcare cost really being paid?
2) Is it fair to stick the teenagers with the task of caring for a toddler?
3) Is it safe to have the teenagers caring for the toddler?
4) What is a reasonable amount for a parent who has custodial rights (albeit, apparently joint in this case) to pay for child care costs?"
5) Does paid family care make more sense in a case like this rather than paid childcare?
My colleague writes: "I don’t think Mom should have to impose on her other children (and their father, in whose custody they are half the time and he has been supportive, but is understandably getting impatient with the whole situation). I am wondering if I could approach it as a deviation request – with a promise to hire actual child care because it is not fair to make Mom keep imposing on the children.
Elizabeth Sadowski, past-chair and active member of the Family Law Section writes this: Refer to the State of Michigan 2015 Child Care Market Rate Study:
Provocative: The Market Study shows costs much than $50/week in child care. Then there is the questions whether a young child should be left alone and/or left with a sibling. Here is a link to an article discussing whether & if it is appropriate to leave a child should be left alone and about how to assess readiness of a sibling to provide care: http://tinyurl.com/849kn77