In Michigan, the court sets child support based on a number of factors, including how much money the parents make, how many children the couple has and how much time the children will spend with either parent. The typical child support order covers the costs associated with the child’s housing, food, clothing and medical care. As any parent knows, this leaves out a lot of potential expenses. What about fees for sports? What if the child wants to take piano lessons? If the child goes to college, does the parent responsible for paying child support have an obligation to pay the tuition bill?
These other costs generally fall into the categories of extracurricular expenses and post-majority expenses. If they are to be shared, there needs to be an agreed-upon plan.
Extracurricular expenses can include everything from sports-related expenses and mobile phone bills to field trip costs and bills for computer equipment. As children grow, their hobbies and interests change and the costs associated with their extracurricular activities tend to follow suit.
In many cases, the parties will include a provision in their settlement agreement stating that each parent will pay a certain percentage of reasonable extracurricular activities. However, parents don’t necessarily agree on what constitutes a reasonable extracurricular expense. For example, the child might want to travel to a foreign country to practice their language skills. While one parent might be on board, the other might balk at the costs involved.
In the event the parents disagree about a new activity or expense that arises down the road, mediation can offer a solution. In these cases, good communication is often the key to reaching an agreement everyone can live with.
Child support generally comes to an end after a child has turned 18 and graduated high school. In most cases, the biggest post-majority expense is college. With the price tag of a university education spiraling ever upward, this can create a big financial burden for parents.
If parents decide to commit to paying a child’s college expenses or other post-majority expenses, they should ensure the agreement is as detailed as possible. One possibility is putting a monetary cap on tuition. This ensures parents only agree to pay for what their budget can handle. Otherwise, agreements to pay post-majority expenses can lead to parents getting stuck with expensive bills for private colleges. Parents should realize that, without an agreement, the courts cannot order any post-majority expense, or payment of college tuition, room and board, etc.