As you are likely aware, weekly child support does not cover the cost of a child’s extracurricular activities and related supplies.  Most parents have a separate agreement or order about how extracurricular costs will be shared.  It’s fairly easy to understand that regular school clothes, annual school fees and school lunches are the expenses that are paid by the parent receiving child support with financial support provided by the other parent in the form of weekly child support.  It is also easy to understand that the travel soccer team, special cleats required for soccer and the team shirt are extracurricular expenses that are paid separately by parents outside of weekly child support.  But what about the confusing gray areas where school and activities meet?

To unravel the expense-sharing confusion, begin with a review of what the child is required to do to earn a grade which appears on his or her school report card or transcript.  Curricular expenses are costs required to pursue a grade-earning activity.  Extracurricular expenses are costs associated with or required for activities that do not earn a grade.  So the cost of a gym uniform required in gym class, which is taken for a grade is a curricular expense.  A football uniform cost, even when your child is playing for the high school team, is not associated with a grade.  If your child did not pay the expense and instead quit the team, no class grades would be affected.  That’s an extracurricular cost.

A child’s activities which are based at his or her school can get confusing as parents try to figure out who pays for what.  For example, a child who takes band class and rents an instrument to play in that class might also play that instrument after school in the marching band.  These “gray area” expenses can cause confusion and arguments between parents. For each expense associated with a gray area activity, assess whether or not failure to pay the expense would cause the child to be unable to complete an activity required for a grade.  For example, band class requires the use of an instrument on which the child practices, takes playing tests and completes required concerts.  So the cost of obtaining or renting that instrument is curricular since the grade-earning activity cannot be completed without it.

But that does not make every use of the rented instrument a curricular activity.  Joining the after school jazz band or marching band is optional.  A band student’s grade is not affected if he or she chooses not to participate.  That means that the costs associated with these pursuits are extracurricular.  This includes uniforms, travel fees and similar expenses.  Your child may use the same instrument whose cost is curricular in nature, but other expenses associated with these optional activities are not curricular and are not the sole responsibility of the parent receiving child support.

The best policy is to carefully review each activity and the costs involved before enrolling a student.  In addition, have a conversation with your co-parent so that you can get on the same page about an expense before committing to it.