Does each parent have to pay for half of extracurricular activities?

Extracurricular activities can be fairly minimal, or can be thousands of dollars per year, per child - especially if the word "travel" is involved. Because the costs are usually on the low end for younger children, parents often don't consider the costs at the time of separation, but only when they've reached their full, teenage levels. 

By default, no parent has to pay any portion of extracurricular activities, as they are legally "extra" rather than mandatory. That means that 1) if the issue isn't addressed in your agreement, it isn't covered, and 2) if your case is contested and the judge decides, you won't be awarded any portion of those costs. The only time the costs are required to be shared are when it's been agreed to in a separation agreement. If it's been agreed to and one parent isn't paying their share, the other parent can move to have them held in contempt of court. 

That being said, there is one other way that these costs can be considered - as a deviation to the child support amount itself. Child support, in theory, takes into consideration all costs of raising a child, including the estimated costs of extracurricular activities for families of a given income level. If the actual costs of the extracurricular activities are greater than 7% of the child support amount, a deviation may be made for the additional amounts.

For example, say Husband pays Wife $1,500 per month in child support for their two children, and the kids take up football, costing Wife $2,000 per year. The average monthly amount of football would be $166.67. Seven percent of the child support amount would be $105. In that instance, Wife could request that the court consider the costs of football in establishing or modifying child support, but only for the amount over the 7% a month - so the court could award a deviation for $61.67 per month for football costs, divided proportionally based on incomes. So if Husband makes 55% of their combined incomes, his child support obligation could be raised from $1,500 per month to $1,534, resulting in him paying $408 more per year due to the extracurricular activities. 

While that deviation may be made by the court, it is discretionary, and judges often choose not to award those amounts. Even in the best case scenario, here, Wife (who earns 45% of the couple's combined income) ultimately pays 80% of the cost of the extracurricular activities. 

As such, if you're hoping to have your ex pay their fair share of the children's extracurricular activity costs, you'll likely need an attorney - drafting a settlement agreement correctly to make sure the cost is mandatory, or arguing the issue to a judge, is not an area where doing it yourself is likely to work out. Call The Lilly Law Firm today at (678) 807-9150 to help ensure that your child support covers everything it should.