Dance support, baseball support, hockey . . .
The National Center for Education Statistics reports that students who participate in extracurricular activities have higher grade point averages, fewer unexcused absences and have higher expectations to continue in college. Simply put, children who participate in extracurricular activities do better in school; Sounds like a no-brainer right? Wrong!
According to U.S. News and World Report the cost of extracurricular activities can be “eye-poppingly expensive.” and the costs typically go up with age. While a trip to Cooperstown New York or a baseball tournament may be wonderful, the cost can easily exceed a thousand of dollars for a single baseball tournament.
Michigan divorce and custody law does not provide a mechanism to pay for extracurricular activities.
In Michigan, child support is the court ordered payment of money for a child. Michigan compiled laws section 552.502(a)(h) provides that child support may include the payment of medical, dental, child care and educational expenses. The cost of extracurricular activities is absent from the definition of child support.
How to allocate the payment of extracurricular activities?
Since the cost to participate in extracurricular activities is not part of the child support obligation lawyers and parents should consider providing a mechanism for contribution in the Judgment of Divorce, Custody or support order for both choosing the activity and sharing the cost.
How to share the costs of extracurricular activities?
- Premise the cost-sharing on the parties agreeing on the extracurricular activity prior to seeking contribution. It is not uncommon for one parent to sign a child up for several activities without consideration of the time commitment or cost, therefore, an agreement to share in the cost of extracurricular activities should include a requirement to agreement of the parties before signing the child up for the activity.
- Utilize a percentage for contributing to “agreed upon” extracurricular activities. Most agreements provide for contribution pro-rata based on income or simply a percentage such as 50-50.
It is important to note that when an agreement to contribute to extracurricular activities is placed in a Judgment of Divorce or court order, it is typically final and non-modifiable. Therefore, careful attention should be exercised in drafting an agreement to contribute to extracurricular activities.
Remember the cost of extracurricular activities is a moral obligation – not a legal obligation.
Sharing in the cost of baseball, dance, hockey etc. is a moral obligation. The cost becomes a legal obligation only if the agreement to contribute is made part of the divorce, custody or support order.
If the parties reach an agreement and the agreement is placed into a Judgment of Divorce or Custody, the agreement is enforceable under Michigan law. See: Ovaitt v. Ovaitt, 43 Mich. App. 628 (1972). Many parents make the mistake of agreeing to contribute only to have life’s circumstances change. Therefore, caution should be exercised before doing so.
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By: Daniel Findling