Children and parents vary widely in talents and resources. One child may be academically gifted and a private school may best serve their intellectual gifts. Another person’s child may have a real shot at an Olympic sports team …. or have aspirations to pursue classical music activities through top-notch programs. Cultivating our children’s gifts and interests takes work … and often money. When a divorce separates the parents, what happens to the costly extra-curricular activity? Child support alone plainly won’t scratch the surface of covering the costs for many extra curricular activities.
Intact families and divorce families face similar challenges in determining their budgets for extra-curricular activities and specialized educational opportunities for their children. It often takes sacrifice, and the coordinated efforts, of both parents to help children blossom and develop into successful adults. Divorce, however, often brings with it the additional financial challenges of maintaining two households.
There is no cookie-cutter answer but, in my experience, one principle rings trues. Where parents can unite to find ways to support their children, their children know they are loved and they thrive. If there is a way to make the financial sacrifice for a child’s travel hockey or expensive equestrian activities, parents who can remain focused on the children’s best interests — married or not — can find a way. Even where the financial resources are not available, collaborative and creative brainstorming by the parents often produces results — a Steinway may be out of the question but a decent grand piano may be found second hand. (I know this first-hand.) Maybe travel soccer may be out of the question for now, but if Dad can volunteer to coach the school team, the bonding opportunity may be priceless. I am a firm believer in the saying, “Where there’s a will, there’s a way.
Even in midst of very difficult divorces, I have witnessed parents come together to support activities their children enjoy — and which may provide their children the joy and continuity needed to help the children successfully and positively move forward in life, even though their parents are separating. Parties who can agree to work together for the sake of their children can be proud of that effort.
My clients in Streamline divorce cases and in mediated and collaborative settlements often inspire me with the creative ideas and the selflessness they demonstrate in uniting to raise their children well, despite the fact their marriage can’t be preserved. The Guideline’s minimum standards for child support under Michigan law may never cover the costs of raising a child with costly interests but loving parents, married or divorced, aren’t looking at the floor — the are looking at best possible outcomes.
If you are struggling with issues of divorce and with the costs of educating and advancing your children’s activities and interests, I always encourage the open-dialog associated with out-of-court divorce options rather than a court-based approach in which a judge may simply not have the power to devise a way forward that is best for your children.