Every parent has her or his own specific notion of the experiences that she or he considers to be integral to her or his child’s formative years. This may include discipline-building activities like participating in team sports. It may mean cultural activities like music or dance. It could mean spiritual opportunities like church camp. While a parent might consider any one (or more) of these essential to a child’s development, the law sees them differently when it comes to paying for these activities and determining a parent’s child support obligation. As a non-custodial parent, one of the keys to maintaining a full and vibrant relationship with your child is making sure that you are not financially overburdened by paying a child support obligation greater than what the law really says it should be. By working with knowledgeable Maryland child support counsel, you can give yourself a better chance of achieving a fair outcome in accordance with what the law dictates.
One example of a dispute over extracurricular activities and child support was the divorce case of Elizabeth and Robert. The trial court judge awarded custody of the boys to the father. The court also ordered the mother to pay $840 per month in child support, as well as one-half of the boys’ medical expenses and “all agreed-upon extracurricular activities.”
After the conclusion of the case, the mother appealed, and she won that appeal. The problem with the lower court ruling was the way that the trial court went about setting the mother’s financial obligations. The appeals court was clear that, under Maryland law, a parent’s child support obligation should not factor in a child’s extracurricular activities as an additional form of mandatory support above and beyond the basic support obligation, even if those activities are desirable. The only way that a court can tack on these activities is if they are necessary for a child’s special needs, such as “advanced programming” for a gifted child or remedial tutoring for an academically challenged child.
Activities like a child’s church camp, private instruction for sports like tennis or golf, music or dance lessons, or the costs of a child’s participation in select club or traveling sports teams are all things that a parent is not required to pay to cover. As a result, these expenses are included within the basic child support obligation.
The appeals court’s decision also explained how the process of paying for private or special schooling works. If the cost of attending such a school is something that can be included in the parent’s child support obligation, the law requires that the parents pay for these expenses in proportion to their respective incomes. In other words, a 50-50 split of these costs would only be proper if the parents had equal incomes. In Elizabeth and Robert’s case, he made more than $75,400 per year, while she made just over $51,100 per year. Based on those incomes, the mother’s child support obligation could have included the boys’ private school costs, but it could only demand her to pay 40% of those expenses, instead of 50%.
For skillful and knowledgeable legal representation in your family law case, contact experienced Maryland child support attorney Anthony A. Fatemi. Our office has been helping our clients work toward productive outcomes in their divorce, child custody, and child support cases for many years. To find out how we can help you, contact us at 301-519-2801 or via our online form.
More blog posts:
Father’s Ill-Timed Appeal Costs Him in His Maryland Child Support Modification Case, Maryland Divorce Lawyer Blog, March 30, 2018
How Imputed Income Works and How it Can Affect a Child Support Case in Maryland, Maryland Divorce Lawyer Blog, Jan. 16, 2017