Extracurricular Activities for Kids: Are They a Necessity?
In the recent decision of Sutej v Sutej, 2015 ONSC 2064 the divorced parents of a 6 year old boy boy disagreed on whether his father should have to contribute financially to his soccer camp and other recreational activities.
The legal test to be applied was whether these activities fell under “section 7 expenses” of the Child Support Guidelines. Section 7 covers the payment of what is referred to as “extraordinary expenses” such as extracurricular activities, and are considered above and beyond basic child support obligations. These expenses are to be shared by the parents based on a number of factors, including their incomes. The court must also assess the appropriateness of such expenses by considering several factors, including the nature and number of extracurricular activities and their overall cost.
The mother in this case had enrolled the son in soccer camp in the summer, in addition to other summertime and year-round activities. The father refused to pay for these expenses for his son; he also objected to the mother’s choice of activities without consulting with him first and obtaining his approval in advance.
The court confirmed that the mother did not have an absolute right to enroll the son in numerous activities and then ask the father for a payment contribution. The court referred to the decision in Forrester v Forrester, which stated “the Guidelines do not grant a license to a custodial parent to inject a child into lavish additional activities and demand automatic payment” [at para 147]. Instead, the court noted, the expenses must meet the threshold tests of “necessity” and “reasonableness” [at para 149]. The extracurricular activity expenses must also represent unusual costs that are not otherwise covered in the ordinary payments that are paid by the parents.
The court applied these principles to the present case and found that the costs to enroll the son in soccer camp and other activities were not “extraordinary”. However, it did not require the father to contribute to those expenses unless he wished to do so voluntarily. The court recognized that such extraordinary expenses may come up from time to time. To eliminate any further disputes between the parents, the court ordered the father to pay a set amount each month for all section 7 expenses for extracurricular activities. In addition, if any additional section 7 expenses for the son were to arise in the future that required a greater contribution, the parents could return to court to increase the father’s share.
The above summary does not cover all aspects of this lengthy decision and is not intended to be construed as comprehensive legal advice. If you have questions about custody and access, please contact experienced family lawyer Jason P. Howie, online or at 519.973.1500.
To read the full decision click here.