There are very few things that make you realize just how expensive kids are than divorce.
When you’re married, the true cost of children is masked and subsidized by the coordinated contributions of both parents. For example, daycare costs are minimized because parents work together to minimize those costs.
Then divorce happens and people stop living together (which incurs a lot of additional costs) and stop coordinating. Costs for kids in situations like this tend to go up.
In Utah divorce cases, we always deal with the basic kid costs, such as: child support, insurance, and daycare. What people sometimes miss is another cost, but a significant one: extracurricular activities.
Extracurricular activities refers to activities outside normal school activities. The most common examples are things like dance lessons; music lessons; football, baseball, or other sports; and summer camps. These activities don’t fall under basic necessities (which are covered under child support), nor do they fall under school fees (which should be addressed separately in a divorce decree anyway). They are an expense unto themselves.
So, how do you split extracurricular activity fees in Utah divorces?
The most common way is to share costs equally. Specifically, you share costs equally if you agree on the activity or activities. So, if you both agree Johnny should play competitive soccer, you would both share those costs. However, if you can’t afford to put your daughter in competitive dance, then you wouldn’t share costs.
If parents can’t agree and don’t share costs, what happens is the parent who really wants the activity pays 100% for it. (Note: you can’t put a kid in an activity during the other parent’s visitation time, thus taking away that time. That’s just dirty pool.)
Sometimes, parents will agree that they have to share the cost of at least one extracurricular activity, even if they don’t agree on the activity. This takes away the “No, I won’t pay,” veto power some parents try to exert. And, to be honest, this tends to work pretty well. However, if one parent has expensive tastes, you could be on the hook paying lots of money for that one extracurricular activity.
Sometimes, families know exactly which extracurriculars their kids will engage in, so they negotiate how a child will progress through that extracurricular. Gymnastics is a great example of this. Parents know the progression of competitions and the like, so they plan cost sharing and schedules for the future.
Sometimes, one parent makes so much more money than the other that the richer parents agrees to pay all extracurricular activity costs. This rarely happens.
How do we actually pay the extracurricular costs and fees?
When you share costs, you usually pay separately. In other words, each parent would pay the dance studio operator independently of the other.
If there is a history of a parent paying late, we sometimes have one parent pay and the other parent will reimburse. This ensures payment is made on time, but it also often means the paying parent doesn’t get reimbursed. There is no perfect system, unfortunately.