“Extras” in Your Child Support Order

Minnesota has legal guidelines based on parents’ combined income that the court must use for computing basic child support. However, some parents may find that basic child support does not provide enough payment for private school tuition, sports programs and travel teams, summer camp, and enrichment activities, such as music lessons and dance classes. Many divorcing parents are able to work out a child support settlement that goes beyond the basics of the guidelines, because they want to minimize the negative impact of their divorce on their children and allow them to maintain a certain lifestyle. However, not all parents are in agreement about the importance of extracurricular activities or private school. If you want these perks for your children but the other parent is resistant, you either have to reach more deeply into your own pocket, or litigate the matter in family court.

Minnesota law does require the court to consider factors that would augment child support payments above the basic level. These factors, from 2015 Minnesota Statutes 518a.43, are cited as:

  • The extraordinary financial needs and resources, physical and emotional condition, and educational needs of the child to be supported
  • The standard of living the child would enjoy if the parents were currently living together, but recognizing that the parents now have separate households

The first factor applies predominantly to special needs children whose care and maintenance are extraordinarily expensive relative to typical children of the same age. If you have a special needs child, you can rest assured the court will consider relevant expenses when ordering support. The second factor listed above pertains to children of parents who have the means to provide the benefits that most parents aspire to give their children.

In deciding whether to augment child support, the standard the court applies is whether the parents would have provided a certain amenity had they not gotten divorced. The court looks at the pattern of the parents prior to divorce. If children were already enrolled in private school, the court may order sufficient support to continue that schooling. If a child has not entered school, and has no older siblings who have attended private school, the court would look at other factors, such as the relative quality of available public schools and the importance in the parents’ minds of religious education in their child’s formation. With regard to enrichment activities, the court may also take notice of the habits and practices of the child’s peers and of similarly situated families in the same area with similar incomes. However, any order the court may issue also depends on the added financial burden of maintaining two households where once there was one.

If you’d like further information on how to enhance court-ordered child support during your divorce, contact our family law attorneys with Appelhof, Pfeifer & Hart, P.A.

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