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Back to School (Part 2): Paying for School-Related Expenses

BACK TO SCHOOL (PART 2): PAYING FOR SCHOOL EXPENSES

Last week, in the first part of our Back to School Series, we discussed choosing a school with your Co-Parent. Today, we examine how the costs of educational expenses and extracurricular activities are split in a co-parenting situation. 

Deciding who should pay for what in relation to school and extracurriculars can be a challenging part of the divorce process, but having a well drafted parenting plan that specifically addresses these issues will help you to avoid disagreements in the future. You also need to consider the logistics of the reimbursement process for the costs that are split.

Colorado law specifically states that your child’s educational needs is a factor to consider when determining a parent’s duty of financial support. The statute does not specifically contemplate extracurricular or recreational activities for your child. However, Colorado Courts have ruled that “recreational costs” should be considered as a factor with respect to a child’s standard of living and additional needs.  Therefore, both the costs of education and extracurricular activities can be used by judges to determine the amount of support paid/received by each parent.

The cost of educational and extracurricular expenses can be included in the actual calculation of support (via a child support worksheet), or they can be reimbursed separately from the monthly child support obligation. This distinction should be discussed with your family law attorney, as it could have a large impact on the amount you pay or receive each month.

Should you agree to split costs outside of the child support calculation, you and your family law attorney need to discuss what percentage of these costs should be paid by you and your co-parent. Many people agree to a 50/50 split, but parties should consider the possibility that one party’s income could change dramatically.

You should also discuss the reimbursement process for the costs that each party covers. Trying to obtain reimbursement can cause significant conflict between parties, particularly if one parent is unreasonable or difficult.  Also, it can be difficult to enforce a parent’s obligation to reimburse you, if the logistics are not discussed in your parenting plan.  Identifying a specific process for payment/reimbursement in your parenting plan can prevent an expensive and time-consuming fight later on.

If you find yourself fighting about the costs of education and extracurriculars because your Separation Agreement/Parenting Plan is not specific enough, you should discuss the options that you have to either modify or enforcing the terms of your parenting plan. The timing of your request for reimbursement can be significant in the court’s determination of how much money you are owed by the co-parent.  If too much time has passed, and if you have gone without seeking to enforce your right to reimbursement, a court may find that you have waived your right to some amount of those reimbursable expenses. 

The seasoned attorneys at Gebhardt, Emerson, & Moodie Family Law have seen the impact that a poorly drafted plan can have on families.  Our attorneys can assist you in either creating a plan that minimizes the need for future litigation or modifying or enforcing a parenting plan you currently have.

Once you have made the choice to move forward, our attorneys at GEM Family Law can help the process to go as smoothly as possible. Whether you are pursuing a modification, enforcement, or if you are creating an entirely new parenting plan, our lead Denver family law attorneys can help you to reach your goals. Our legal team understands the social, financial, and legal challenges you may face and can help you to prepare for what lies ahead.

Authored By: Meagan Moodie, Esq.

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