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Can I get a court order to pay for school costs

iStock-596772164 back to school.jpg

There are certain times of the year where the coming events tell you what month it is. For instance, a fireworks show typically signals Independence Day. Holiday displays signal a day in December, and the State Fair ending means that August is upon us.

August also means that a new school year is almost underway. While this may be more than a couple of weeks away, it is never too early to think about the upcoming school year if you are a recently divorced or separated parent. After all, there will be new routines to get used to, new after school activities, as well as a need for new clothes and supplies.

Dividing tasks (and funds for them) may not be so easy for parents who are recently separated or divorced. This is because non-custodial parents will insist that their child support payments are sufficient for school related costs, and custodial parent will maintain that more is needed.

When these disputes occur, should a support modification order be pursued?

Like any legal question, the answer depends on a number of factors. Under California law, a family court judge may consider instances that amount of what is called "a substantial change in circumstances" that would give way to a modification. Such changes may include a substantial loss or gain in a parent's income, increases in health insurance costs, fluctuations in payroll taxes and changes in parenting time plans.

The only time the start of school would likely be considered "a substantial change in circumstances" would be if this resulted in (a) a significant change in the existing parenting schedule child support is based upon, and (b) there are significant expenses for school (e.g., uniforms, registration fees/tuition, before and after school child care, field trips, transportation costs to school, etc.) that should be shared by the parents. Such expenses are considered on a "case by case" basis as there is no hard and fast rule as to if, or which expense a court might decide to split payment between the parents.

Nevertheless, a skilled family law attorney can assist in helping parents reach a compromise when it comes to adjusting support or sharing additional costs.

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