The child support system has changed so many times that it can be difficult to keep track of what it’s for, how it’s calculated, and how it benefits the child. Kids today keep busy with a wide range of activities and hobbies, which further complicates the child support question.
Whether you pay or receive child support, it’s important to know what your rights and obligations are. To discuss your issues with our legal team, call Coumanis & York at 251-990-3083.
What Are Extracurricular Activities?
The term “extracurricular activities” refers to a wide variety of hobbies, clubs, and lessons a child may participate in. For the purpose of child support, an extracurricular activity is generally considered to be any optional activity that occurs outside of school hours. This includes:
- Girl Scouts or Boy Scouts
- Music lessons
- Individual and team sports
- Academic competitions
- Foreign language lessons
- Dance and gymnastics
Understanding How Child Support is Used
Custodial parents are intentionally given broad discretion to use child support to cover any of a child’s needs. Money may be used for a child’s most basic needs, including food, clothing, shelter, and medical care. However, it can also be used for educational fees, field trip costs, and after-school childcare expenses. As a result, child custody can also be used to cover extracurricular activities.
However, it is important to note that this can vary on a case-by-case basis. In particular, children that come from high-net-worth families may participate in very expensive extracurricular activities. If this is the case, the non-custodial parent may pay extra child support to cover those activities or pay for them directly as part of a divorce agreement.
What Happens When Parents Have Joint Custody
Everything so far assumes that one parent has primary physical custody and that the other parent has visitation. However, the situation may be slightly more complicated if parents share joint custody. In this case, the court may order the parents to split the cost of extracurricular activities. While the court may award child support if there is a significant income gap, it is less likely for child support to be awarded if both parents have the child half of the time.
When One Parent Doesn’t Agree with an Extracurricular Activity
Using child support to pay for extracurricular activities can get messy if the parents disagree on what an appropriate activity is for their child. Consider, for example, the parents of a young child enrolled in karate. While one may think it’s a necessary activity to teach self-defense, the other may worry that it will cause them to act violently. One parent may think an activity is too expensive or a waste of money and insist that their child support not be used to pay for that activity.
However, ultimately, how child support is used comes down to how the custodial parent chooses to use it. If the parents share legal custody, the non-custodial parent may have some room to fight for or against a specific extracurricular hobby. Beyond that, though, the custodial parent generally has the freedom to use child support to cover whichever expenses they choose. Trying to fight that is likely to lead to unnecessary attorney bills, frustration, and a negative court outcome.
Parents can often avoid these fights by keeping the lines of communication open when it comes to their child. Rather than simply signing a child up for an extracurricular activity when they express interest in it, the custodial parent can talk to the non-custodial parent about any concerns they have first. If there are concerns about pricing, parents can work together to explore a variety of options in their area and choose one that is both affordable and convenient for all involved parties.
Discuss Your Concerns with Coumanis & York
Child support is a complicated topic for many divorced parents, and it’s no surprise that it’s a common source of disagreements. That’s why it’s crucial to understand your rights and obligations as a custodial or non-custodial parent. If you have questions about child support or other parts of your parenting agreement, we are here to help. Set up a consultation with our team online or call us at 251-990-3083.