Ad hoc extra child support payments: What are your rights?

Special and extraordinary expenses for children

Legal rights attached to extra child support

“My ex-wife said our daughter had been accepted to a prestigious, but expensive, dance camp. So I gave her $3000 as half of the tuition – but now I’m almost positive my daughter never actually went to the camp. What should I do?”

Special and extraordinary expenses are governed by Section 7 of the Child Support Guidelines. Typically, these items would be covered by this section:

  • Medical and dental expenses
  • Daycare or after-school care
  • Extraordinary expenses for elementary school education or programs
  • Extraordinary expenses for post-secondary education
  • Extraordinary extracurricular activities

An agreement – made during the divorce proceedings – would usually cover how a Section 7 expense is to be incurred and how the parties deal with it. Generally, they are paid in proportion to income.

Guidelines allow estimates to be considered, taking into account the necessity of the expense and the reasonableness given the means of the parents. If an expensive dance camp is within the means of the parents, and is in the child’s best interests, a court may order a parent to pay the proportional amount.

If a payment is made voluntarily or in accordance with the provisions of a separation agreement, but is never in fact incurred, then the funds should be returned or credit given to the paying spouse for future, legitimate expenses.

Best practices, when you’re just trying to do the right thing

Regardless of your relationship with your former spouse, it’s natural for a parent to agree to an extraordinary expense – even a large one like this – when you know it will be meaningful for your child. And that’s a great impulse.

If you are certain that you were ‘duped’ into paying the extra $3000, you can pursue remedies via the court based on Section 7. But a pinch of prevention is worth a pound of cure. So here are some ways you can make sure that the money you provide is applied to the expense described:

  • Tell the other parent that you wish to be consulted in advance of any large extraordinary expense
  • Request some documentation in writing, as appropriate (presumably, for a dance camp, there will be a fee schedule in a brochure somewhere)
  • Request a receipt for the amount paid (for tax purposes, you’ll want to have receipts for child-related expenses anyway – this should not be perceived as a hostile request)
  • Offer to pay your share directly to the organization involved (i.e. the dance camp)
  • Use a form of payment that can be tracked later if necessary. Providing cash is not recommended

This blog is provided for educational purposes only and should not be construed as specific legal advice. This blog should not be used as a substitute for competent legal advice from a licensed lawyer in your province.