Extracurricular Activities And Divorced Parents: Who Pays?

Raising a well-rounded child is crucial to their success later in life. Incorporating a good balance of extracurricular activities can offer a solution in this area. While excellent for the child, these activities can present concerns for divorced parents, with the greatest question being – who is financially responsible? Unfortunately, the answer isn't always black and white as there is a large grey area that can have an influence on this decision.

Child Support Order

Is there a child support order in place? If the answer is yes, focusing on the terms of the order can help offer an indication of responsibility. Each state has different laws regarding the use of child support. In some states, a primary custodial parent is awarded a certain amount of child support each month and it's their responsibility to disperse the funds as necessary, such as for food, clothing and extracurricular activities. If your state follows this system, you may not be required to pay any additional money to cover these expenses if you do not want to.

However, in other states, extracurricular activities are referred to as add-ons, expenses above and beyond the basic necessities of raising a child. With this scenario, you have to contribute to the cost of these activities in addition to basic support. In most cases, unless there is a significant difference between the financial means of the custodial parent and the noncustodial parent, the cost for these activities will be split equally on top of the support order.

Necessity Of Activity

The next consideration is the necessity of the activity. Is this an activity you contributed to before the divorce? For example, consider a nine-year old who has been involved in gymnastics since the age of two. If the non-custodial parent helped cover the cost of these lessons while they were married to the other parent, it would now be hard to argue that they are no longer responsible. This is especially the case if the child would not be able to continue with the lessons without their financial contribution. The court would likely see this as a forcible change to the child's lifestyle and therefore require you to contribute.

Another example would be a child that needs to participate in the activity for developmental reasons, such as a child participating in ballet to help with motor development. Most courts generally see this as a necessity and will generally award additional assistance. It's important to understand that there is no set gauge for determining the necessity of an activity and that the judge has great influence.

If you are facing this type of situation, a family law attorney can help you determine your responsibility and ensure your rights are protected.