Family Law

Child Support and Extra Curricular Activities

By Kristina Otterstrom, Attorney
Who pays for the kids’ activities after a divorce?

Paying for Lessons and Classes

In some cases, a child support award will be designed to cover a child’s expenses, including music or sports-related lessons. What this means is that a custodial parent who enrolls a child in ballet class will have to cover the costs of the class through child support payments.

But in some situations—and depending on your state's laws—a court may order extra or additional support to help pay for "add on costs," including extra curricular activities, like ballet lessons, gymnastics, or soccer class. In California, for example, these add on costs are usually split between the parents—typically 50-50 or in proportion to the parents' incomes, if there's a large enough disparity.

Again depending on your state's laws, if a parent can show that the child actually requires certain lessons, a court is more likely to order that the cost be included in the child support amount that the noncustodial parent pays for the child. For example, a court could order a noncustodial parent to pay half the cost of gymnastics classes for a child who struggles with gross motor coordination. Or, a court may include piano lessons as part of a support award for a child who is extraordinarily gifted in music. These types of situations are exceptions to the rule and are ordered on a case-by-case basis.

Paying for Summer Camp

Summer camp can be construed as a luxury or as necessary childcare. If it’s work-related childcare, a noncustodial parent will likely be responsible for one-half of the cost. Presumably, if the family unit had remained intact, the parents would have treated summer camp as a necessary cost. Even though the parents have separated, they are each still responsible for covering child care costs.

An exception is if a child is old enough to go without childcare, or the custodial parent doesn’t work. In those situations, summer camp becomes a luxury more than a necessity. The parent who wants to put a child in summer camp without a necessity will be responsible for covering the entire cost of camp, unless the other parent agrees to split the cost.

Paying for Religious Activities

As part of a divorce or custody order, parents can agree to raise their child in a particular religious faith. Children who practice faiths like Judaism or Catholicism complete certain rites, and there are costs associated with these. If parents have agreed to raise their child in a certain faith, they will have to share the costs of bar/bat mitzvahs, first communions, confirmations, and other similar ceremonies.

Summer Vacation

Child support orders are in effect year-round, and support must still be paid in the summer months. Depending on your child support order and where you live, you and your ex may be able to adjust the support order if the noncustodial parent is spending extra time with the child during the summer. In situations where you and your spouse can’t agree, you can ask a court to make a temporary modification to support.

Both parents have an ongoing financial duty to support their children, which may include paying a portion of the costs related to extra curricular activities and childcare that allows the custodial parent to work.

Questions for Your Attorney

  • My ex has over scheduled my child, and there are numerous uniform and sports team costs. Do I have to pay for half of these costs even if I don’t agree to all of them?
  • My child’s other parent and I agreed to split the cost of summer camp. I’ve enrolled my child and already paid a hefty registration fee and now my ex is saying she won’t pay. What can I do?
  • I am the noncustodial parent, but have my 3 kids full-time during the summer. I typically pay child support, but it doesn’t seem fair for me to pay during the summer months. Can I just stop paying or do I need to revise my support order?
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