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When Child Support Isn’t Enough

DBM Law Blog

Special and Extraordinary Expenses: When Child Support Isn’t Enough

You get child support payments from your ex-spouse.  Often times though, those child support payments are not enough to support your child’s extracurricular activities, tutoring and other big expenses.

Special and extraordinary expenses are a type of child support that are separate and in addition to regular child support payments. The purpose of basic child support is to cover the day-to-day costs of raising a child, which include food, clothing and shelter. The purpose of special and extraordinary expenses is to cover the other expenses that go over and above those basic needs, such as extracurricular activities, or medical and dental expenses.

What is considered a special and extraordinary expense?

Special and extraordinary expenses are set out in section 7 of the Federal Child Support Guidelines. They may include daycare expenses, medical and dental care expenses, post-secondary school expenses and expenses for extracurricular activities.

Generally, a special and extraordinary expense must be reasonable. This means that the expense should be useful to your child. Further, this means that it should be reasonable when considering your ability to afford such expenses. Those underwater basket weaving lessons that cost $300 per hour probably will not be considered reasonable for the average parent and child.

What the law considers a reasonable special and extraordinary expense can vary. If you are unsure whether your expenses could be shared with your ex-spouse as a special and extraordinary expense, contact us to speak with a family lawyer.

How are special and extraordinary expenses shared?

Generally, special and extraordinary expenses are shared by a child’s parents in proportion to their incomes. This means that if you earn $60,000 and your ex-spouse earns $40,000, you would pay 60% of the special and extraordinary expenses, and your ex-spouse would pay 40%.

Do special and extraordinary expenses have to be proportionate to income?

No. You and your ex-spouse can agree to a different proportion for sharing these expenses. Further, you can make different arrangements for different expenses.

For example, you could pay for 80% of your child’s piano lessons and 30% of your child’s guitar lessons, because you believe the piano is the superior instrument. Since your ex-spouse prefers the guitar but is supportive of your child learning both instruments, your ex-spouse agrees to pay the remaining 20% of your child’s piano lessons and 70% of your child’s guitar lessons.

How do I get special and extraordinary expense payments?

You can agree on special and extraordinary expenses with your ex-spouse. This is common in the context of negotiating separation agreements or divorce agreements. Here are some tips if you are negotiating an agreement for special and extraordinary expenses:

  1. Figure out what you and your ex-spouse consider a special and extraordinary expense. You may disagree on what should be covered, and you will want to know exactly what you are for before signing any agreement.
  2. Determine when special and extraordinary expense payments should be paid. You probably want the payments before said expenses become due.
  3. Think about when the agreement for special and extraordinary expenses should be reviewed and updated. A child’s needs are constantly changing. A lot of stress and conflict may be avoided by agreeing on when special and extraordinary expenses should be reviewed.
  4. Get the agreement in writing.

If your ex-spouse refuses to provide for special and extraordinary expenses, you can ask the court to make an order for special and extraordinary expenses. The court will consider whether the expenses you are asking for are reasonable. For assistance with getting a court order for special and extraordinary expenses, contact us at 604-LAWYERS to speak with a family lawyer at Drysdale Law.


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