Child support payments are intended to ensure children can continue to receive the quality of life within the guidelines and earning abilities of the parents that is in the best interests of the children. This includes providing the child with a consistent level of schooling (education), health care, and support to address other needs.
However, there are limitations to what’s intended to be covered in a child support payment. For instance, private school or full-time religious schooling may be considered as an allowable statutory “add-on” to the support. While other things, like hobbies and extracurricular activities may be considered something that is not a statutory add on.
When add-on payments are requested, whether someone is arguing that they are needed or should be limited in some way, the parents are advised to consult with their family law lawyers about it. These things can be mediated out if you are using the process of divorce mediation, negotiated with your lawyers or litigated. The argument can be made for the non-custodial parent to contribute towards religious school tuition as an educational expense, similar to private schooling. However, this is only if the religious school replaces the other full-time schooling solutions available for the child. If the religious school is offered as an additional solution alongside standard full-time schooling, it’s likely to be treated as an “extracurricular expense”.
Schooling Requirements and Child Support Payments
According to DRL 240 (1-b) (c) (7), when the court believes additional support for special, private, post-secondary or enriched education is in the best interests of the child, additional educational expenses may be awarded. In one case, Adjmi v Tawil, 180 A.D.3d 435, 118 N.Y.S.3d 590, (1st Dept. 2020), the the Appellate Court upheld the decision of the Supreme Court to provide the child with continued schooling at a Jewish day school when this was requested by the mother to be added to the father’s child support payment.
As the parties separated when the defendant was still pregnant in this case, a standard of living was not established for the child. The trial court exercised its discretion in directing the plaintiff to pay 100% of the child’s tuition at a Jewish Day school from preschool through to 12th grade.
Two of the defendants children and three of the plaintiff’s children already attended Jewish day schools, and the plaintiff actively supported religious education, which helped the court in making this decision. The court established religion had been an integral part of the family lifestyle, and the plaintiff could afford the tuition costs.
The laws of New York highlight the court may award educational expenses for private, special, and religious schooling when it’s in the best interests of the child, and when they have considered the circumstances (including financial ability to pay) of the respective parties. Living a religious life during marriage and enrolling other children in full-time religious schooling indicates it is also necessary to enrol the child in question in the same kind of education.
Extra-Curricular Activities and Child Support
Sometimes, Mr. Shapiro’s clients ask about the additional expenses associated with activities like “baby swim” classes, and how they can be covered by child support. Normally, these activities are regarded extra-curricular and weekend activities. The court could simply determine that these are things that are covered by the child support payments and thus the custodial parent should pay for them or, perhaps order a higher amount of child support to cover these additional expenses when considered in the best interests of the child.
When calculated correctly, child support is intended to meet all the basic needs of the child. The expenses of leisure, enrichment, and extracurricular activities aren’t awarded separately, but included within the wider child support award. However, this isn’t to say the courts can’t order a parent to pay expenses above the standard child support payments. This is simply a deviation from the basic statutory formula.
The CCSA requires the courts to begin by establishing a specific child support amount, before allowing for the payment of certain additional categories to considered and add-on expenses, prorated according to the relative incomes of the parents. The add-on expenses permitted are stated within the statute, and can include things like:
Childcare expenses when a custodial parent is working
Looking for work or engaging in educational training programs
Health insurance and unreimbursed medical expenses
Not included as add-on expenses are summer, extracurricular and weekend activities (except summer camp to the extent is necessary and comparable in cost to child care can be considered a statutory add on). Unless the court finds the non-custodial parent’s pro-rata portion of the standard child support obligation to be inappropriate or unjust, the child support calculation is usually considered to be presumptively correct. The factors to consider before deviating include the financial resources of the child and the parties, the health, aptitude, and needs of the child, and the standard of living the child would have had if the parents had not divorced and separated.
The courts may also consider nonmonetary contributions made by a parent, tax consequences, the educational needs of the parents, and disparity in the income of the parents. Sometimes, other child support obligations for non-custodial parents, expenses incurred in visitation, and any other factor deemed relevant by the court can be considered too. However, the court will need to articulate its reasoning from deviating from standard child support.
Expenses Connected to Child Support Payments
Calculating the right support payments for a custodial parent after two parents separate or divorce can be a complicated process. While there are guidelines in place to guide the decisions made by the courts, it is also possible to deviate from these guidelines. What’s more, the courts will always endeavour to serve the best interests of the children when making any decisions.
If you have questions about add-on expenses and other concerns associated with divorce maintenance and support, you can contact my office to get on our calendar to discuss your case. Appointments are available to arrange wherein your first 30 minutes of your initial consultation will be free.