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Does My Ex Have to Help Pay for Our Daughter’s Prom Dress?

Dear Carolyn,

Prom is coming up, and my daughter is a senior.  I want her to have a nice dress for prom, but her father will not help pay for the dress.  I receive $622 per month child support pursuant to a child support order, and our daughter lives mostly with me.  Can I make him pay for at least part of the prom dress?  What can I do?  These dresses are expensive.

Prom Dress Poor


Dear Prom Dress Poor,

Your question about the prom dress has both some legal and practical considerations.  First, the legal consideration:  Your child support order is probably under Worksheet A of the Child Support Guidelines.  When a court sets child support on Worksheet A, the court considers both parents gross income, daycare (which wouldn’t apply to your daughter because of her age), health insurance and out of pocket health costs, and extraordinary expenses, if any. The non-custodial parent pays the custodial parent an amount of child support determined upon some tables of numbers standardizing child support in North Carolina.

When the court set the child support order, the court gave you the money from the other parent to budget for needs such as a prom dress, which would not be an “extraordinary” expense under the North Carolina Child Support Guidelines.  So, legally the father doesn’t have to provide extra for a prom dress or any similar expenditure (a dance lesson for example).  These costs are all included in the $622 you are receiving per month.

Now, for the practical side.  Perhaps, the father and the daughter could do an outing together to pick out the prom dress.  If the father is allowed to be involved in the process and thus, invested in it, perhaps he may consider contributing to the cost of the dress.  You might suggest this to the father and say you will pay half, for example.  Be kind and courteous; it’s the flies and honey thing, you know.

From the parent’s point of view, such as yourself, you cannot guarantee the father will help pay for the prom dress.  Anticipate this expense and save for the prom dress expense monthly about a year in advance.  Maybe set up a savings account that both you and your daughter contribute to, which would have an educational component for your daughter.  You might encourage your daughter to babysit, for example, to make some money to go in the prom dress account.

I am sure your daughter will be beautiful on prom night.


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This blog is revised from a previous Ask Carolyn in The Rhino Times.

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