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Child support and summer camp

There's a mistaken belief among a lot of newly divorced parents that child support is only supposed to cover the basics that a child needs -- which means those parents could be in for a seriously unpleasant surprise when their ex-spouse asks the court to order a temporary increase in support to pay for summer camp (or something similar) this year.

They may be even more unpleasantly surprised when the judge grants the order. However, if the court determines that you can afford the increase, and the extracurricular activity that your ex-spouse wants your child to have is something that the court thinks is justified, that's exactly what's likely to happen.

Under Tennessee's child support guidelines, the court may order a deviation from the standard support order so that the child can receive certain extraordinary or special expenses:

-- Special education, including room and board, tuition and other fees

-- Summer camp

-- Music or art lessons

-- Band camp

-- Athletic camps

In determining whether or not the deviation from the normal child support payment is warranted, the expense has to exceed 7 percent of the basic child support order. The court also looks to see if the activity or educational opportunity would have been appropriate to the child's lifestyle if the parents were still together.

If you truly can't afford the expense, the court won't deprive you of the money you need to cover your rent, utilities and other living costs -- but it may not leave you with much left over. For that reason alone, it might be worthwhile trying to work with your ex-spouse on an amount you can contribute more easily, without getting the court involved. If you're generally agreeable to the idea of a summer camp for your children's benefit, you may be able to negotiate for a less pricey alternative to the one your ex-spouse has picked out.

If you and your ex-spouse are at an impasse on the issue of child support and extracurricular activities, the advice of an attorney may be warranted.

Source: FindLaw, "What Does Child Support Cover?," accessed May 03, 2017

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