Summer camps, cell phones and clothing – who pays for it?

Dividing the cost of camps, activities, clothing, hair-cuts and the like can be confusing for many separated spouses. The starting point is understanding that there are two types of child support:

1)      basic child support paid from one spouse to the other every month; and

2)      special and extraordinary expenses.

Basic child support is meant to deal with the daily cost of having children in your life (increased utilities, a larger home, food and simply meeting the child’s basic needs). Basic child support is determined by the Federal Child Support Guidelines.

Special and Extraordinary expenses are items such as child care, health care, extra-curricular activities, tutoring, post-secondary fees – expenses that are outside the basic day to day cost of housing and caring for a child. Special expenses are paid in proportion to you and your ex-spouse’s incomes or some spouses decide to share these expenses 50/50. It is important to understand that expenses such as entertainment, pets, vacations, school fees, school supplies, children’s allowances, meals outside the home, personal grooming, and clothing are not special expenses. A home computer and other similar technologies such as a cell phone also do not qualify as special or extraordinary expenses.

Even though the law may not recognize certain expenses as shared expenses, you and your ex-spouse can agree to share these expenses and many others if you both believe that to be fair. Often when children are spending approximately equal time at each parent’s house, the parents are more willing to share expenses such as cell phones, lap tops and clothing. When you and your spouse negotiate an agreement outside of court, you can be more creative with how these expenses are shared between you.

It is important to obtain legal advice to clearly understand if an expense is considered outside regular child support prior to seeking compensation from your former spouse. It is also prudent to have specific language in your separation agreement defining what will be considered a special and extraordinary expense to minimize confusion or frustration (and legal costs!) at a later date.

About Leisha Murphy

Partner/Mediator – Vancouver

After being a family lawyer for over 13 years, coupled with my own personal experience with divorce, I have come to understand the difficult transition that comes with the end of a relationship. This experience has put me in the unique position of being able to provide clients with a clear picture of what is to come and how to plan for it. As well as provide clients with guidance and education on how to deal with the day-to-day realities of a separation.