How to Handle Extracurricular Activities in a Divorce

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A friend of mine was in the middle of negotiating her divorce settlement with her soon-to-be ex husband and she said he was trying to have it written in their settlement that she was responsible for paying for all of their children’s extracurricular activities.  Do these expenses fall under Child Support (food, shelter, clothing, education, medical and dental care)?  What about other things like trips, birthday parties, graduations, etc.?

What is an extracurricular activity?

According to Meriam-Webster “Extracurricular” is defined as:

1. not falling within the scope of a regular curriculum, specifically : of or relating to officially or semiofficially approved and usually organized student activities (such as athletics) connected with school and usually carrying no academic credit. Or 2. lying outside one’s regular duties or routine.

Many children are active participants in all kinds of organized groups outside of their regular school day and there are countless benefits for kids. Sports and activities help children develop social skills, leadership opportunities, peer interactions and cooperation to name a few.  Whether it’s soccer, dance, art, robotics, chess, basketball, gymnastics, etc. all of these types of activities cost money and time. In some cases a lot of time and a lot of money.

Divorce is very difficult for families and it’s important to consider the well being of their children. According to the Washington State Family Law Handbook, it’s important for parents to maintain a positive relationship with each other and that they work together when making parenting decisions.  In fact, many counts in Washington State require parents to take a class on reducing conflict and how divorce affects children.  In the spirit of harmony and keeping the children’s best interests at heart, allowing them to continue with their extracurricular activities is important.

What is considered a “one-off” activity? How are they different from extracurricular activities?

A “one-off activity is defined as:

1. something that happens only a single time. 2. An example of a one-off is an experiment that works out once. noun. 3. Happening, done, or made only once.

According to yourdictionary.com.

There are a number of one-off events in the life of a child, everything from birthday or graduation parties, trips, a car, prom dress, etc.  Does each parent pay for their own party for their child? Do parents throw a joint party and share the costs? The list of one-off activities is endless and it’s difficult to account for all of them. There are also many different strategies for how to divide the financial burden placed on parents. There can be a hefty price tag for one-off events.  Hopefully, parents can agree how to pay for these special occasions.  These events may only happen once in a year or a lifetime, but they are no less important to your child. 

How are the costs associated with extracurricular and one-off activities negotiated?

The best way to work through these communication between parents. When couples divorce on good terms they can discuss each event and activity and split the costs 50/50 or whatever is fair depending on each parent’s financial circumstance. Some parents negotiate who is responsible for paying for recurring activities in their parenting plan which clearly spells out who is responsible to pay for these things to avoid any potential conflicts.  However, not all relationships end amicably in these cases all costs associated with the children may be factored into the child support settlement when included in the child support worksheet or quick child support estimator. The calculator is only an estimate, but both will help you consider all of the extracurricular and one-off costs in raising your children.  If all else fails, contact our team at The Narrows Law Group for help.