Jonathan Marks, STL Moms: Sports, Private School, and Divorce

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Margie Ellisor: Sports, especially club or elite teams, it can cost a lot of money, and thousands of parents also enroll their children in private school for a pretty penny. But what happens when parents divorce? Who pays? Attorney Jonathan Marks with the Marks Law Firm is here this morning with how Missouri looks at these education and extracurricular activities. Good morning to you.

Jonathan Marks: Good morning, Margie.

ME: Yeah, so let’s start with sports. How does Missouri calculate that?

JM: So, in essence, a sport is an extracurricular activity, and the court normally wants parents, especially if they’re joint legal custody, to reach agreements on how those activities are going to be enrolled in, and then along with it, who’s going to pay. From a percentage standpoint, most people believe it’s just going to be split 50/50 each parent pick up half. The reality is, the court’s going to take a look at what the gross monthly income is for each parent and then make that decision as to how much each should pay based on that gross monthly income percentage of the total household income.

ME: Yeah. So what if one parent says, “Yes, I want them playing sports,” and the other parent’s like, “No, I don’t want them to play.”

JM: There are variables for that. So, sometimes it can just occur in that regard, and they’ll say, you know, one activity we’re going to let that go, but the other parent isn’t going to have to pay for that particular activity. But it also gets into then the custody time somebody’s taking away. So, you know, in essence, you’re putting a parent in a very difficult situation because they don’t want to tell their child, “No, I’m not going to take you to practice. I’m not going to take you to your games. So they’re normally going to be able to participate, but if there’s some make up time, or some additional time that has to be exchanged, it really should be done. Otherwise, you may wind up back in court with the other parent arguing about make up time.

ME: The other thing you mentioned is the parent or court could look at it as a recurring expense and actually put it in the Form 14.

JM: Sure. So let’s assume that you know that your child is always going to be participating in x amount of activities, and you look over historical averages what that’s going to cost. Some parents say rather than coming to me every time you’re going to put someone in volleyball or gymnastics let’s just figure out what the total cost is, put it in the Form 14 (the child support calculation spreadsheet), and then that way I know I’m just paying you a set percentage every month and that’s all I’m paying you for child support. And the other parent, no matter what they enroll the activity is, is just going to know that they don’t go to the other parent for that additional sum.

ME: They’re picking up the bill. What about sending your child to private school?

JM: So, private school is normally always by agreement. I mean, the reality is, you can’t just, or the court isn’t going to order a child to go to private school when there is a public school that’s totally available. The only time you may get into a circumstance that’s different is assuming you have a child that’s a special needs, if for some reason the public school through the special school district isn’t available to be able to meet those needs, private school is going to become available, but normally then the public school is going to pick up the additional expense. The other option is, let’s assume you’ve had a child at Burrows or MICDS for an extensive period of time, they are one or two years from graduation before this divorce is going to occur, in that circumstance the court is going to look out for the best interest of the child and order the parent to let the child finish their education.

ME: Alright very good. Attorney Jonathan Marks, thanks for your time this morning, we appreciate it. For more information on the Marks Law Firm, head to the STL Moms tab, we will provide you with a link.

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