Extracurricular Activities

This article is not intended to be construed as legal advice. It is for informational purposes only, offering insights and awareness into the complex nature of negotiating the terms of divorce.  Custody, child support and other parental obligation decisions like extracurricular activities, can become a complex labyrinth to navigate. Speaking with an experienced attorney is an advisable way to make sure your rights are safeguarded.

Does Child Support Cover Extracurricular Activities?

In California, a child is entitled to receive financial support from both parents.  Support is based on parental income and normal child rearing costs, regardless of the parent’s relationship with that child.  Child support must ensure a decent quality of life for the child.  Support orders, however, do not normally address fiscal responsibility for extracurricular activities.

Does Responsibility for Extracurricular Activities Need to be Defined Separately?

Of all the information to decide in a divorce, extracurricular activities seems like a low priority.  After all, when the kids want to play soccer, whoever has parental time on soccer days takes them to soccer practice, right?  Wrong. Without including the issue in your divorce agreement, it isn’t covered.  The divorce court judge can view extra-curricular activities as just that: extra, not mandatory.

Custodial parents often make decisions that are medical , educational, religious and/or other general well-being in nature.  Since extracurricular activities aren’t in this category, the parents are supposed to discuss them.  The discussion on any or all extracurricular activities with the other parent should occur prior to signing up the child. It’s a pretty basic concept, but in a divorce, any concept can become complicated quickly.

Extracurricular Activities: Examples and Situations.

Imagine one parent wants their child enrolled in an activity that normally falls during their parenting time.  Since it doesn’t appear to affect the other parent, it shouldn’t be an issue.  But what happens when an extra practice or playoff game is scheduled during the other parent’s time with the child?  It might even conflict with another activity the other parent set up. What happens when the parent in favor of the activity expects the other parent to contribute without any prior discussion? It might not be an issue since they both care for the child.  On the other hand, some parents are unwilling to take on more responsibilities than they previously agreed to.

In another separated couple situation, a child has taken part in a sport like soccer for the last 5 years.  When the couple divorces, the custodial parent wants the noncustodial parent to continue paying for that extracurricular activity.  If the noncustodial parent wants the activity to stop, the court is likely to rule that the couple agreed upon the activity previously.  In this case, both parents could be ordered to take part in and financially support the continued extracurricular activity.

When Does Child Support Cover Extracurricular Activities?

Theoretically, child support takes into consideration all the “normal” costs of raising a child at a certain income level.  Within that range, revising the child support order to include extracurricular activities is unlikely, with some notable exceptions.  What if a child wants to play football in high school, placing an added financial burden on the custodial parent?  If that cost would require a significant increase in child support to cover it, the court could award a deviation from the previously determined amount of child support.

Put it in Writing.

The court, at its own discretion decides on added child support covering extracurricular activities. Keep in mind that Judges often choose not to award the extra amounts. During a separation and pending divorce, emotions run high and things like extracurricular activities might not seem important.  You could regret not addressing it in the divorce agreement, especially if you have to pay all the expenses. A good way to protect yourself is to seek the advice of an experienced family law attorney. Get the right settlement, drafted by an experienced family law attorney.  Settle the question of who will pay for the extracurricular activities before a ruling excludes that possibility.  Talk to Hittelman Family Law at (949) 210-3260 or click here to contact us today.