Extra Expenses and Child Support – Who Pays?

Your daughter is a star gymnast.  She has been in competitions since she was 5 and now she is 11.  She really has a shot at a scholarship and possibly the Olympics one day. But the lessons and competitions are not cheap.  This didn’t matter so much when you and your Ex were still together.

Now, all of a sudden, it matters. Your Ex says it is too expensive and your daughter should just quit.  You cannot afford to pay all the fees associated with having your daughter in gymnastics.

Your Ex won’t agree to pay and you are heading to court. Who pays? Will your daughter have to quit gymnastics and give up her dream?

Or what if in your situation your son needs extensive therapy.  This is extremely costly.  Your insurance does not begin to cover these costs. But your son has serious emotional issues.

He does not do well in school and you are truly concerned that if he does not receive help he will end up in some sort of juvenile detention.

Your Ex doesn’t see a problem. He just says boys will be boys. Will a court require your Ex to help with the costs of therapy?

How are these extra expenses allocated in child support? How does a court decide who pays or not? This article will answer those questions for you.

What are extraordinary expenses under the North Carolina Child Support Guidelines?

The North Carolina Child Support Guidelines give examples of extraordinary expenses to include counseling, expenses for private school or special schools and transportation costs associated with travel.  This list is not exhaustive or comprehensive. Many other types of expenses could be considered extraordinary expenses.  For example, the courts have considered ice skating expenses and summer camp as extraordinary expenses to be included in the child support calculation.

The trial court has the discretion to make adjustments to the child support guideline amount for extraordinary expenses.

The trial court also has the discretion to determine what actually constitutes such expenses.

So if the parties cannot agree on whether an expense is “extraordinary” and include the expense in the child support calculation, then a judge would decide 1) is the expense an “extraordinary” expense and 2) whether or not the expense will be included in the child support calculation.

Examples of Possible Extraordinary Expenses:

1) Therapy/Counseling

2) Summer Camps

3) Expenses for children who excel at a certain sport such as gymnastics, ice skating, etc.

4) Private schools or special schools

5) Therapeutic camps

6)  Medical treatment or medication of any kind that could benefit your child

7) Any expense that is legitimate and truly benefits your child should explored as a potential extraordinary expense

What is NOT an Extraordinary Expense?

There is no doubt about it–having children is an expensive endeavor. Every time you turn around there is something else! Whether it be ballet shoes or a new hockey stick…does it ever end?

Oftentimes, parents are under the mistaken belief that incidentals and meals out, etc. are considered expenses or extraordinary expenses beyond child support.

The party receiving child support is only entitled to the amount ordered by the court. And the party paying child support is only required to pay that amount. Any sums spent by either parent beyond the child support obligation are voluntary.

Say for example, you are the party paying child support and on your weekends, you like to take the children out for meals, go bowling etc.  You say to yourself surely this should reduce what I pay to my Ex because I am spending money on my children and caring for them. This is not the case.

When it is your time with the children, you are responsible for what you spend.

As frustrating as it can seem that every penny is not accounted for…unfortunately, it is impossible for the legal system to micromanage every penny each parent spends. The best that can be done is to calculate a child support number that is fair to both parties.

In some cases this will mean a straight calculation applying the North Carolina Child Support Guidelines and in some cases it will require a deviation from the child support guidelines.

Examples of expenses voluntarily assumed by one parent during his or her time with the children not likely to be considered an extraordinary expense:

1)  Meals out at restaurants
2) Extra activities such as movies, putt putt, festivals, circus, zoo or fairs, any activity that is truly for leisure or to spend time with your child is typically not considered an extraordinary expense. It is a choice you make as a parent to spend time with the child.
3) Weekends trips
4) Manicures, pedicures

So you may be wondering what is the difference between the purchase of soccer cleats and ice skating lessons? A one-time purchase of cleats, a baseball glove and the like are not in the same category as recurring expenses associated with therapy or a particular sport such as gymnastics.

One-time purchases are going to be “chalked up” to a parents choice to spend the funds on that item not an extraordinary expense to be included in the ultimate child support calculation.

There could be any other number of expenses not discussed in this article that may qualify as an extraordinary expense. The key is to show that the expense benefits the child and is legitimate.

  • Fox 50
  • cnn
  • cnbc
  • abc.com
  • The new york times
  • Good Morning America