Back to School Costs! Who Pays?

September can be a month of anxiety and stress for families as it presents back to school for children.  This September, post Covid-19, is arguably the most anxiety provoking and stressful in a significant number of years. All the new “school costs” and equipment requirements and other necessities have likely left many families worried about how much to pay and how to pay.

Families are no longer just concerned with bookbags, pencils and general school supplies, they are now also concerned with mandatory laptops, refillable water bottles and face masks to name a few.  Let’s also not forget whether or not they can afford to have internet in their homes.

When parents are separated, one would imagine that these concerns are even greater due to the unavoidable separation of income and resources – “down to one income” sort of thing.

In a previous article, I discussed section 7 expenses – what they are, who pays, and how much.  Post Covid-19, we are now seeing new “section 7 expenses” that we family lawyers have not had to deal with in the past.  Before, sending your child to school with a laptop could be seen as a luxury not available to the average family.  Face masks were a thing we saw on tv and likely would not have dreamed of having to spend money on packs of them – to buy reusables or throw aways was not something discussed on the weekly.

Given that such items are mandatory for school, they may fall in “primary or secondary school expenses” listed in section 7 of the Federal Child Support Guidelines, making them a valid section 7 expense.  This means that each party, to the extent they can pay, must contribute to the new laptop costs, face masks, water bottles and the like.

This would be in addition to paying child support and contributing to other section 7 expenses such as daycare or after school expenses, and braces for example.

How much must be paid depends on each parent’s income, type of custody they have, deduction of any subsidies or grants, and reasonableness of the expense.

It’s not just a mom thing to worry about.  Both parents are expected by the Court to deal with these new back to school necessities, and thus divvy up the dollars and cents.  It is a new reality!

We are here to help work out the math and determine amounts for you.  Seek legal advice to ensure the right amount is being paid or received.

Sending well wishes to all the children going back to school.  We see you parents, teachers and school administrators working to ease the transition back but also to the new at home learning environment.  Best of luck to everyone from all of us at J. Donovan Law Group.

All for now,