Sports, Private School and Divorce (Part One)

extracurricular activities divorce attorney st louis mo

USA Today has a very interesting article detailing what one family has done to further the chances of their son becoming a collegiate or professional golfer. Judy and Dwight Davis sold their home in Dallas and moved to Orlando so their son, Ian, could be part of an elite golf academy that also includes a full academic program. The Davis family has spent “six figures” on advancing the prospects of Ian as a golfer, including trips around the country and even around the world to compete in tournaments.

While the Davis case may seem on the extreme, the article points out that nearly 20% of families spend more than $12,000 per year on club sports. And thousands of students every year enroll in private schools.

What would happen if the Davises had been divorced? Could one parent be forced to support these extracurricular activities? What about the private school education?

In Missouri, extracurricular activities are considered separate and extraordinary expenses. A court without the agreement of the parties could not order the parents to support the club sport interests of the children without limit. The court could, and should, allocate what percentage each parent would have to contribute to the payment of extracurricular activities. Also, in Missouri, the parents must agree to the activity in advance before both parents may be bound to pay for the expense. If one parent has sole legal custody, that parent could make the decision for the child to participate in the activity, but that parent could not make the other parent pay for that activity without that other parent’s consent. Further, if that activity will cut into the physical custody time of the other parent, and the other parent does not agree to waive that time or the parents do not agree on makeup time, the parent pushing the activity could end up facing a contempt proceeding.

As a secondary method of payment, the parties or the court could classify this activity as an extraordinary recurring expense and include it in the Form 14 used for calculating child support. In this way, the activity is funded on a monthly budget, and if the activity ends or the parents cannot afford to pay anymore, either the judgment could account for this with different child support amounts or the parents could return to court and move to modify the child support amount.

A preferred method of addressing club sports, particularly when parents know a child has the capability and interest at the time of divorce, is to do so by agreement. If the parties make an agreement that is not unconscionable, the court can enter it as an order. Thus, if both parents want the child to have this opportunity, they can agree to the terms of participation and payment, and the impact on the custody schedule. It would be wise for the parents to agree to an “out” clause in the event one parent becomes financially unable to continue funding the club sport.

In our next post, we will address the payment of private school.

If you have questions about payment of extracurricular activities and divorce, contact us – we can help.