I recently wrote an article for Enemy of Debt, Youth Sports Are they Worth the Expense outlining the exorbitant amount of money I have shelled out already for my son to participate in. Feeling pretty strongly about involving and exposing him to these activities I retrospectively wish I would have included them in my divorce agreement signed seven years ago.

My son's father and I are on good terms, but when it comes to relying on him to split the cost of these extras I am often disappointed. The potential cost of these activities never crossed my mind, after all how much could t-ball and kiddy soccer cost? A LOT! And we have only just begun our son is eight, so we have at least ten more years to fund his extracurricular activities.

The Unsuspecting Parent

My ex and I communicate freely with each other and discuss the different activities our son is involved in, so this isn't too much of an issue for us but I have a divorced friend whose situation is quite the opposite.

Her son is an excellent baseball player and had been asked to play for a travel team. Her ex, without telling her, signed him up and said your half is $250 a month. This "extra" expense was not in her budget, but she agreed at the settlement table to pay for half of all extracurricular activities. The $250 doesn't even quite cover it, there is also equipment and travel expenses that go along with playing on the traveling team. She's stuck and going into debt to make up the difference. There is no way out of this commitment, even though she does not have the money

Keep the Lines of Communication Open

This is why open communication and ground rules are so important when it comes to your kids after a divorce. By setting the "rules" ahead of time you can avoid being trapped by what you agreed to in your divorce settlement.  Although parents may share joint legal custody, the decision making authority does not include routine decisions such as extracurricular activities for your child. So the time and cost involved is not taken into account but rather, it is what it is.

Back in Court

Without a pre-determined cut off for extracurricular expense you are on the hook. If you don't pay you may find yourself back in court over contempt for not doing what your agreement says. To keep things fair and avoid this type of situation consider everything involving extra curricular activities and get it in writing.

For example:

  • Set a dollar amount you are comfortable with for extracurricular activities, say $50 a month.
  • Determine who will pay for missing or replacement equipment, say $100 a year.
  • Who will be taking the child to said activities? If they are with you for the weekend or weeknights of practice it is your responsibility.

You get the picture.

We all want the best for our kids even when it comes to battling with our ex over who will pay.  The more specific you are about extracurricular you are at the settlement table the better off you'll be when junior is an all season athlete and the expenses get out of hand.

How do you and your ex handle extracurricular activities?

Suzanne CramerSuzanne Cramer  

Suzanne is a certified credit counselor and a Social Media Specialist for CareOne Debt Relief Services. Suzanne writes for Divorce, Debt and Finances and A Straight Talk on Debt. Follow Suzanne on Twitter @SuzanneCramer1 and @AskCareOne  where she shares her insights on divorce and managing your finances