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I’m Not Paying for That!

Who Must Pay for Extracurricular Activities?

The beginning of the school year brings excitement, fun with new and familiar friends, and a steady stream of expenses for parents of active children. But this year is different, because you and your spouse/partner have separated. Before, you simply paid for their sports and clubs and groups and teams from your joint checking account. Now, you each have separate bank accounts.

Disclaimer: The posts and discussions on this blog are designed are for general informational purposes only. The topics covered may not apply to everyone. The discussion should not be relied upon as legal advice in your case or as self-help materials.

If you are looking for Washington State self-help materials, check out www.walawhelp.org.

Ideally, both parents agree to fairly share the costs of extracurricular activities, and everyone is happy. In real life, parents often disagree over how to pay for their children’s extracurricular activities. Whether you were married or not, the only way to get the court’s help in making a binding determination on who pays how much and for what is by entering a child support order. Parents then have a way to enforce payment as well.

While the Washington State Child Support Order has a section on how day care, education, and long-distance transportation expenses will be shared, many parents are unaware a variety of other expenses may be included.

Excerpt from Washington State Child Support Order form

Common expenses include:

  • Sports teams

  • Personal development clubs, such as Scouts

  • Individual activities, such as music or dance lessons, or martial arts training

  • School clubs

  • Private tutoring, college prep courses or specialty after-school training classes

Most of the above also require special equipment, clothing, or supplies to participate in the activities. All of these expenses can be shared by the parents according to a set percentage, dollar amount, or more commonly, according to the proportional share of income calculated on the child support worksheets. Here are some examples of extracurricular activities to consider.

It is important to note your Parenting Plan may include provisions regarding making decisions about extracurricular activities. A Child Support Order details who must pay, and how much. It does not mean that every extracurricular activity listed on the order, regardless of whether the other parent agreed or not to enroll the child in that activity, is automatically a shared expense.

You should consult your Parenting Plan to determine if both parents are required to agree on the activity for it to be a shared expense. Why? Well, imagine the other parent makes three times as much income as you, and is constantly enrolling your child in expensive activities you may not be able to afford. It it likely unreasonable to expect you to pay for an extracurricular expense you cannot afford if you have not agreed in advance.