July 2019

It’s summertime; a time for fun in the sun, pools, lakes, and keeping kids occupied. Stated another way, parents of youngsters will need to enroll their kids in one after another activity that will hopefully burn the limitless energy children possess. These activities typically have a cost associated with them. A common question is: Who pays for these and what does the law say about it?

The simple answer is that the law says nothing about whether a parent is mandated to pay for extra-curricular activities such as team sports, arts, summer camps, and the like. But that does not also mean these issues cannot be included in a conservatorship order by agreement of the parties. Parents attempting to settle their custody dispute can agree to include terms for payment of extra-curricular activities even when a court would not have the authority to mandate it.

The overwhelming majority of child conservatorship orders are settled without need of a contested court decision. It is elementary that each parent will have a wish-list of issues they would like included in a court order, regardless of whether those issues are supported in the law. Parents often trade off or barter their wish-list issues to include as many of them as possible in the court order. These can include payment for extra-curricular activities.

Child support does not typically include payment for extra-curricular activities. With some exceptions, child support in Texas is based upon a mathematical calculation of a party’s net resources as applied to the Texas Family Code Guidelines. If one parent is ordered to pay child support to the other under those guidelines, the law does not require payment for additional items unless the court order says so. In addition, the court generally does not have the authority to mandate that either party pay for extra-curricular items unless the parties mutually agree to include such items.

There are countless reasons a party might have incentive to voluntarily include payment for extra-curricular activities when a court would lack the authority to require it. Avoidance of further litigation and cost, extra time of possession, greater say in exercising child rights, and favorable property awards in divorce are all common reasons that might be leveraged to include payment for activities not typically required by the Texas Family Code. In cases where settlement has still not been reached, a party interested in negotiating payment terms might consider some of these factors.

In cases that have already been completed and the final order rendered without any terms regarding extra-curricular activities, the parties are free to negotiate any terms they wish, but neither is required by law to do more than is stated in the conservatorship order.

Whether and how to pay for child activities is made exceedingly harder when the child’s desires and divergent parental interests must be considered and balanced.

Clearly, some forethought is necessary when parties anticipate needing or wanting to involve children in activities carrying a cost. The Law Office of David A. Kazen is familiar with the issues commonly negotiated in this area. Even where final orders lack any terms regarding payment for activities, the assistance of competent legal counsel can help maximize results from negotiations. For a detailed discussion of possible solutions, schedule a private consultation with the Law Office of David A. Kazen.