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Jennifer McCaskill
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Disputes over back-to-school costs

With the new school year in full swing, divorced and separated parents may have already survived the annual financial crush of back-to-school shopping. But it is not surprising when parents in these situations to feel overwhelmed with the costs of extracurricular activities and after school care. After all, some parents are trying to make ends meet with fewer resources, either because support motions are still pending or other financial issues reduce the amount of money available to spend.

Because of this, some custodial parents may want to have additional support from non-custodial parents to help defray the costs for music classes, sports leagues, and tutoring sessions, for example. This may lead to disputes over whether a parent paying child support should make additional contributions.

Before you bring a motion for support modification, consider this: basic support is not meant to compensate for extra costs geared towards additional activities. Instead, basic support is meant to assist in the general costs of raising a child (i.e. food, shelter, clothing and entertainment). As such, a family court judge may not be inclined to modify a support order to require a parent to pay for ballet classes, football camps, or science seminars.

Instead, the court may put the expectation on parents to work out a way to meet these costs.

Nevertheless, there are situations where a court would entertain a modification of an existing support order. For instance, if a parent loses his or her job and is temporarily unemployed, the court may approve a temporary modification. In the same vein, a parent who is forced to take alternate employment may seek to have a permanent modification. 

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