J. Gregory Hatcher | Charlotte, N.C. Managing Partner & Board Certified Specialist in Family Law
Each spring, parents are faced with the daunting task of deciphering various schedules of competing sports, arts, and sleep away camps for their children. Regardless of whether or not there is a stay-at-home parent, children are often placed in camps during a good portion of their summer recess. When parents separate, conflict can arise from the cost of summer camps, who is responsible for payment, and how payment determined by the courts.
In North Carolina, family courts approach the cost of summer camps in a number of ways. If a guideline child support calculation is made, very little accommodation is made for the cost of summer camps with one exception. If the parent receiving the child support is employed outside the home, the cost of summer camps can be viewed as work-related child care expenses. Just as that same parent might utilize an after school program or a nanny during the school year, the cost of various camps can be utilized in the calculation of child support as an adjustment to the basic number derived from the various worksheets utilized in the state.
Should the parties have a combined gross monthly income of such an amount that the presumptive child support guidelines do not apply or if the parties are successful in seeking a deviation from the presumptive child support guidelines, the cost of summer camps for children can be considered by the court as a reasonable and necessary expense for the benefit of the children. In the above scenarios, the party seeking inclusion of the cost of the summer camps would provide documentation of the expense of the camps and, if possible, evidence of attendance at similar camps in the past by the children so as to establish for the court that these costs are consistent with the standard of living established by the parties for their children while they are together.
The obvious difficulty arises when parties separated when their children were too young to attend summer camps or did not attend camps during the time when the parties lived together with the children. If the child support calculation is made under these circumstances, it will be difficult to convince a judge to include an expense that is yet to have been incurred by the parties. Perhaps the best course of action in such situations is to move the court to modify the amount of child support in the future when circumstances arise whereby the expenses are being incurred or are more than likely to be incurred.
In any of these situations, the party is best served by organizing information about the camps as soon as possible. Such information will be required if the party is able to convince the judge that the expense is reasonable and necessary. As with most other circumstances arising when parties separate and there is contention as to resolution, it is best to seek the guidance of a skilled and experienced family law attorney.