Extracurricular Expenses – Who Pays?

When your children are small it is hard to imagine a day that they will be busier than you are. But that day often comes for parents when their children become tweens or teens. The average teenager participates in some kind of organized activity outside the school day but there are a wide range of costs and commitment levels required of parents whose children want to be involved.

It is important to note that extracurricular expenses are not part of the regular weekly child support payment. They are expenses which are optional in nature since these activities are not part of life’s required costs such as food and clothing. That means that in addition to meeting the basic financial needs of a child, parents are faced with the expenses of things like sports, marching band, summer camp and show choir. These expenses are not necessarily the sole obligation of the custodial parent.

The Indiana Child Support Guidelines specify that when parents agree to a child’s participation in a particular activity, they should pay a portion of the expenses. That portion is usually based upon income percentages. In other words, if the gross income of mother and the gross income of father were placed together in a pot, what percentage of the total pot did each contribute? That percentage represents the portion of agreed extracurricular expenses which a parent should pay.

If parents do not agree about an activity, the situation becomes trickier.   The Indiana Child Support Guidelines suggest that a court review each parent’s ability to pay, which parent is encouraging the activity, whether the child has historically participated in the activity and the reasons that a parent encourages or opposes participation. That means that the court could decide to require the parent desiring the child to participate in the activity to foot the entire bill or could divide it between the parents in some fashion.

It is wise to discuss and agree on your shared method of handling these expenses with your co-parent and reach an agreement. That agreement should be written by your attorney and signed by the judge. That way it can be enforced when disagreements arise.   In addition, your agreement should be clear about which expenses associated with an activity are to be shared. For instance the registration fee for a soccer league may be $50.00, but that is not the sole expense. A child needs uniforms, cleats, pads and even travel costs for tournaments. Clearly defining the scope of the expenses in your agreement can cut down on disagreement when the bills come due.

As with all co-parenting issues, communication is key. Over the course of childhood, your children will want to do several different activities. Discuss the pros and cons with your co-parent while considering the enrichment that extracurricular activities offer to your child.

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