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Typically, child support guidelines distinguish between child-related expenses that are included in the basic child support award and entertainment-related expenses. Entertainment-related expenses are generally not included in basic child support awards. Thus, the non-custodial parent (one who does not have physical custody) does not have to contribute to the cost associated with extracurricular activities.
A court may award additional, extraordinary expenses. If the parties have sufficient financial resources, a court may require the non-custodial parent to pay for a share of the child(ren)’s extracurricular activities, including both enrichment activities such as piano or ballet lessons and sports-related activities. If the parties have limited financial resources, a court will likely find that the cost of such activities should be covered by the basic child support award.
Courts typically rule on extra child support requests on a case-by-case basis, looking at the non-custodial parent’s income. If he/she earns a high income, the court will most likely rule favorably on reasonable requests for extra child support for these additional expenses. If he/she is struggling to pay necessary living expenses or if he/she has started a new family, the court will likely rule that the additional expenses are covered by the basic support award.
Special exceptions may arise with extremely gifted or talented children where, prior to their divorce or separation, both parents provided for expensive lessons or activities. In such cases, the court may direct that each parent contribute to the costs of the lessons or activity in proportion to their respective incomes. This order is separate and apart from the basic child support order.
Whether summer camp is considered “child care” makes a big difference in child support obligations. The primary factor considered by the courts is whether summer camp is essentially taking the place of necessary child care because the custodial parent is working or going to school. Presumably, if the family unit had remained intact, both parents would treat child care as a necessary cost. As such, the expense incurred would be for the benefit of the child(ren) that both parents should share.
However, if a child is old enough to go without child care, the cost of summer camp is not considered child care. If summer camp is not “child care,” but rather a discretionary expense, the cost may or may not have to be shared by the non-custodial parent. That said, even if summer camp is not deemed to be a necessary child care expense, a court can order the cost to be paid as an added expenditure in the best interests of the child(ren).
Child support is not suspended during summer vacations, even if the child(ren) spend an extensive amount of time with the non-custodial parent. However, the parents can agree to a different amount during vacation periods when the child(ren) are away for long periods of time or a court can order a modification.
Generally speaking, if the intent of both parents to raise the child in a particular faith is apparent at the time of a divorce or separation, the reasonable educational costs associated with that religion can be apportioned by the courts. Thus, costs for bar/bat mitzvahs, confirmation, and first communions should be expected to be paid by both parents.