Modern education is expensive. Parents bear the cost of everything from tuition to tutoring. When you are dependent on an ex-spouse or ex-partner for part of your monthly living expenses, those extra costs can put you in a difficult position. Can the courts help? Does Colorado child support cover school expenses?
This blog post will discuss who is responsible to pay for private school tuition, tutoring, and extracurricular expenses under Colorado child support laws. It will cover how the allocation of parental responsibility can affect who gets a say in a child’s extracurricular enrollment, and who picks up the bill when school sports or clubs come at a cost.
Making Educational Choices Sometimes Comes with a Cost
Kids don’t always get all the education they need from the public school system alone. Children with special needs or advanced intelligence often need extra tutoring to bring them up to their grade level or keep them from growing bored. Athletes, artists, and musicians benefit from additional extracurricular activities that help them develop their skills. Sometimes, a family’s religious choices or educational philosophy dictate enrollment in private school instead.
Who gets to make those decisions depends on the allocation of parental responsibility in your judgment of absolute divorce or custody. In Colorado, a family law judge can direct both parents to share in decision-making about their children, or allocate those decisions to one parent or the other. In rare cases, parents’ decision-making responsibilities will be divided by topic to suit the parents’ knowledge and skills.
Whoever has the decision-making authority under the allocation of parental responsibility is the parent who will have the final say on school enrollment, tutoring, and extracurricular activities. Where the parties share this decision-making authority, it will be up to them to work together to decide which school choices are appropriate, and what the families can afford.
Can Colorado Child Support Cover School Expenses
The answers to your family’s educational choices can come with a steep cost. The average private school tuition in Colorado is $11,360 per year. Even for public school students, tutoring, private lessons, and extra-curricular clubs all have additional costs over and above clothes and school supplies. So how do those costs get paid?
Colorado child support covers general public school expenses such as:
- School lunches
- School supplies
- Uniforms or clothing
Your child support order may also be adjusted based on any after-school child care costs you have to pay. However, most other school expenses go over and above the child support guidelines. A standard child support award won’t include “extraordinary expenses”:
- Field trip costs
- Sports uniforms or equipment
- Club costs
- Activities and classes outside school
- Private school tuition
- Special education services or tutoring outside school
However, that does not mean that one parent is responsible for all those costs. Instead, many child support orders will require each parent to contribute to the child’s “extraordinary expenses” in proportion to their income. Whoever actually pays the bills should hold on to the invoices or receipts to be certain they receive credit for the payments.
Parents’ Options for Covering Extra-Curricular Costs
In many cases the recommendation for a tutor, private instructor, or club will come from a teacher or other educator. Parents may well agree with the suggestion, but need to find ways to pay for it. An experienced family law attorney can help you negotiate the division of payments and come to an agreement about who will pay for what. An experienced family law attorney can also assist you in considering scholarships or other funding options to help you get the best education for your child.
When parents disagree over their child’s extra-curricular needs, it can put the child in the middle of a fight over money. Colorado courts will always put the focus on the child’s best interests — even if that includes private school tuition or special education services. If you believe your former spouse is unreasonably refusing to contribute to your child’s school expenses, you and your family law attorney can file a motion with the court to adjust your child support order and direct the other parent to pay their fair share.
At Aviso Law, LLC, our child support lawyers know that sometimes kids need more than public school can provide. We can help you evaluate the costs and benefits of your educational choices and help you understand how you can use child support to pay for it. We are here to serve you and your family. Contact us today to schedule a consultation.