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Does Child Support Cover Extracurricular Activities?

In Illinois, child support does not cover extracurricular activities, but courts can make separate decisions related to them. Child support is meant to cover a child’s basic needs such as food, housing, and clothing. It does not include daycare, summer camp, school fees, and the like. However, courts can order a parent to pay some or all of these costs and other above-and-beyond expenses, such as extracurricular activities.

What Does Child Support Cover in Illinois?

Illinois child support covers food, clothing, and shelter (a safe home). These are basic living expenses and do not include extracurriculars and many other things.

However, courts recognize that medical care, camp fees, and extracurriculars contribute mightily to a child’s mental, emotional, and physical health. Depending on the parents’ financial means and other matters, judges can order parents to pay expenses related to these activities even though they are not strictly under the basic “child support” umbrella. A child support attorney can help you with child support and above-and-beyond expenses.

What Is Child Support Used For?

Parents use child support to help pay for groceries, rent or a mortgage, clothes, shoes, and other basic, everyday living expenses.

Judges typically do not expect parents to help cover costs such as a car or car insurance (for children 16 or older). The court follows the mindset that teens can take care of these expenses themselves. Exceptions may apply if the car is critical for the child’s work, education, or transportation.

Courts are likely to order parents to help pay for extracurricular activities, daycare, medical insurance, school supplies, dental braces, and similar expenses, based on their financial situations.

Judges are mindful, though, that custodial parents sometimes use extracurriculars to keep children away from the other parent or to force unnecessary costs onto the other parent. If a child participated in extracurricular activities before the divorce, a judge is more likely to order related expenses to be paid after the divorce.

How is child support calculated, though? Illinois has formulas that parents can use for calculating child support amounts. In general, though, a noncustodial parent pays 20% of his or her net income if there is one child to support. If six or more children are in the picture, the amount could increase up to 50%.

Net income is a parent’s income after subtracting paid taxes, Social Security, union dues, other child support obligations, and necessary medical expenses, among other things.

In some cases, the court cannot establish the noncustodial parent’s income. In these situations, it determines an amount that seems reasonable in light of what is known.

Who Pays for Extracurricular Activities After a Divorce?

After a divorce, both parents might pay for extracurricular activities half-and-half or in varying proportions. It could also be that just one parent pays. A lot depends on the parents’ financial situations, who spends more time with the child, whether the other parent objects to an activity, and if the child was doing it before the divorce.

Judges can cap the dollar amount of extracurricular expenses a parent has to pay and the number of hours a child can spend on activities. The idea is to ensure one parent cannot use extracurriculars to take parenting time away from the other parent or harm the parent financially.

Of course, children grow quickly, and their interests and hobbies can change quite a bit from one year to the next. Expenses for extracurricular activities can look different depending on what a child likes to do at the moment.

Parents may want their attorneys to review child support and related orders every three years to check whether they still make sense with the current circumstances. For example, if a child no longer does extracurriculars or a parent’s income has dropped, attorneys can request a modification of the applicable order.

In some situations, court orders or parental agreements might not specifically cover extracurricular activities. Parents can consult their lawyers about what to do. The lawyer could make a court motion, or parents could explore cost-sharing arrangements or community scholarships, grants, or other alternative sources of funding.

Factors Affecting Whether One Parent Must Help Cover Extracurricular Activities

The custodial parent’s financial situation is one factor affecting who pays for extracurriculars. If this parent has limited resources, the judge may order the other parent to give financial assistance.

The child’s best interests matter, too. For example, if a judge finds that participating in specific extracurricular activities is beneficial for the child’s development, the court could order one parent to pay more in above-and-beyond expenses.

Previous participation is important, too. It shows extracurricular activities as an ongoing part of the child’s life and part of the child’s stability. It also reduces the likelihood that one parent could be using an activity to strip time from the other parent or hurt the parent financially.

Who Pays for College Expenses After a Divorce?

Co-parents may wonder, “Does child support include college expenses?” The answers are not straightforward here, either. Judges typically consider college expenses separate from child support, and consider factors such as these:

  • Parents’ financial resources
  • What the child’s standard of living would be if no divorce occurred
  • The child’s financial resources and best interests
  • The child’s academic performance

In some cases, the judge splits college expenses among the parents and child. Sometimes, one parent is tasked with paying a larger share of the expenses. If a child must pay part of his or her college expenses, the ways to do that could include scholarships, loans, grants and other financial aid, and jobs.

It is possible for a court to extend child support payments to cover children after they turn 18 or graduate from high school. Families can use this money to pay for a child’s room and board and other college expenses if applicable. 

Graduation cap and roll of cash. Concept of "does child support cover extra curricular activities"

He helps clients resolve issues relating to family law, including divorce, parenting time and parental responsibilities, paternity, and child support. As a skilled real estate attorney as well, Scott also provides advice and legal representation to clients who are purchasing or selling residential or commercial property in Illinois. 

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