How much extra child support does he need to give?
March 31, 2009 7:32 PM   Subscribe

My new husband has an ex-wife and daughter who live in Colorado. They've been divorced a long time, not exactly on "friendly" terms, but certainly civil, for their daughter's sake. Recently, the kid's grades have been slipping (she's in 8th grade) and Mom decided she needed some tutoring. She signed her up for $10,000 worth of tutoring, without telling my husband in advance, then turned around and demanded half the tuition from him. My husband pays child support, has never been late, even though he's currently unemployed. He told her he couldn't afford $5,000 and even if he could, he doesn't think he should have to pay since she didn't consult him in advance or discuss the matter with him. I was wondering if anyone had any experience with this kind of thing. Does he have to pay her?
posted by redhaired_girl to Human Relations (21 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
 
I don't have any experience with that sort of thing, but I think your husband is completely right.
posted by Nattie at 7:33 PM on March 31, 2009


This is probably something he should talk to his divorce lawyer about. He can always refuse to pay and wait for her to be willing to spend the money to do something about it through her lawyer.
$10,000 in tutoring? You could send the kid to private school for a year that much.
posted by fructose at 7:41 PM on March 31, 2009


She signed her up for $10,000 worth of tutoring, without telling my husband in advance, then turned around and demanded half the tuition from him.

Do you have receipts that show it's actually 10K? Has she done anything like this before i.e. spending money on the kid without talking it over with your husband and then demanding that he pay half? 'Cause based on your post, this sounds fishy.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 7:44 PM on March 31, 2009 [1 favorite]


It depends on their divorce agreement. I make more than my ex, and I have custody of our son. There's no child support, and our agreement says that I will pay for "certain expenses, such as tutoring and hockey". This agreement was filed (and I live) in Maryland. I would suggest that he review their agreement for two things - anything explicit like this, and whether she is required to consult him before incurring an expense for the child larger than X.
posted by ersatzkat at 7:47 PM on March 31, 2009


Yeah, based on what I've observed among my divorced friends with kids, I think it really depends on the divorce agreement, as ersatzkat says -- similar situations can be resolved somewhat differently depending on the terms of the agreement (say, if such decisions have to be made jointly, or if there's a monetary limit on certain types of expenses, or if employment status factors in at any point, etc.).
posted by scody at 7:56 PM on March 31, 2009


There's a few questions here.

Most parenting agreements expect both parents to equally share expenses that are above and beyond child support; summer camp, band/orchestra expenses, sports fees and tutoring or private lessons.

Does he have joint custody per the divorce decree/judgment? Even if he does not have physical custody there is often wording about education or medical intervention that requires notification and/or input from the other parent. He should look at his divorce papers.

Also, even considering tutoring at $75/hr (the going rate in my neck of the woods for private tutoring) that's 133 hours - an incredible commitment to make for an eighth grader. The most I could expect a kid to spend at tutoring would be 3 hours a week, that would be 44 weeks of tutoring. There's only about 10 weeks until she graduates, and the high school may offer a free tutoring program. Or there may be an inexpensive program through a local college. There has to be more to this.
posted by readery at 7:57 PM on March 31, 2009


Most parenting agreements expect both parents to equally share expenses that are above and beyond child support; summer camp, band/orchestra expenses, sports fees and tutoring or private lessons.

This is absurd. It depends on what state you are in, who is paying c/s, how the parenting agreement is written, etc. In my state, it is very rare for a parent to pay for expenses beyond c/s. Different states have different laws about how c/s is calculated, which (I believe) is why some parents have to pay for additional activities/schooling, and some do not.

Read the parenting plan. Some plans do have this clause about educational expenses, but many also state that the parents will work together to come to a mutual agreement before making a firm decision.

I can't fathom 10k in tutoring. That's just stupid. You can hire a college student for a reasonable price.
posted by Lullen at 8:05 PM on March 31, 2009


Disclaimer: IANAL, just a single parent who has been in the legal battlefield for far too long.
posted by Lullen at 8:06 PM on March 31, 2009


Get him to talk to his divorce lawyer, this is ridiculous. $10,000 is just silly money and sounds like a scam.
posted by turgid dahlia at 8:42 PM on March 31, 2009


A parenting plan, filed with a divorce court, often has a section where decision-making responsibilities are detailed. In my experience as an attorney drafting such documents, I have always specified which parent is responsible for educational decision-making for the children. This is something negotiated between parties. So, your husband's first step should be to consult his parenting plan and find out of he agreed to joint decision-making, or whether it was assigned to one spouse or the other. Whatever is in that document, he should have signed it, so he agreed to it.

And no, $10,000 is not unreasonable for high-quality tutoring. It may be out of reach of some budgets, but it is not uncommmon at all.
posted by jayder at 8:53 PM on March 31, 2009


Lullen and others who say this is probably governed by the terms of any divorce decree or child support agreement are right. I'm chiming in to add that, if your husband is unemployed and without the same resources he had at the time of the divorce, he likely has the option of filing for a downward modification of ongoing support based on a change in circumstances. He will want to consult a lawyer in your jurisdiction and the jurisdiction in which his child lives (if it is different from yours) who specializes in child support and matrimonial law.
posted by lassie at 8:58 PM on March 31, 2009


Arizona here. But the parenting plans I've seen (I've seen a few - was a family law paralegal) have wording regarding the expenses of child care (above and beyond c/s) that the expenses would be in proportion to the parties' respective incomes. Maybe his dissolution has wording to this effect. He should not be required to pay 50%, especially since he has little to no income and (especially) if this decision was not agreed upon beforehand. However, should he at some point be required to pay a portion of this expense, it should be in proportion to his income. If ex wife makes a bunch more money than he does, then her portion to pay the tutoring should be more than his portion.

Sorry if that made no sense whatsoever.

IANAL
posted by Sassyfras at 9:02 PM on March 31, 2009


I agree that he needs to review his divorce decree to know what may be expected, and due to his current financial situation he may be due a reduction in c/s until he's re-employed. Then he has to communicate to "Mom" on those two topics, and then it would be beneficial to communicate with "Mom" and "daughter" his opinion on grades and doing well in school (a value). They need to jointly come up with a decision that works and that all three commit to. Just because you buy the most expensive tutoring it doesn't mean the daughter is going to learn anything or even commit to doing something. And he might find out that her bad grades are due to other problems that may require a solution different from a tutor. Now that his daughter is in 8th grade and as she gets older, problems are going to be more complex, and solutions to complex problems require the daughter's, the mom's and the dad's involvement and commitment to a solution. Here's the chance to set a precedence for going forward. Otherwise, the pattern may continue to repeat itself -- 1) there's an issue, 2) "Mom" decides what to do by herself at a price she's comfortable with and 3) Dad gets to write a check (class trip to Europe, first car, etc. etc,).

This might sound like opening a can of worms, but it might be the right thing to do. Father's play a tremendous role in shaping girls' values and opinions during the teenage years. Grades are one of those important issues that don't go away.
posted by Judyst at 9:47 PM on March 31, 2009


Does this magical-solve-all-problems tutoring also require that the $10,000 be paid in advance? If not, then in the very worst version of outcomes, could he present her with a contract that says that if AFTER she pays the first $5000 of X-amount of tutoring with Y-results, then he would pay the rest?

Actually, screw that and any solution within 1,000 miles of what I suggested. Consult a lawyer. Nobody can strongarm you into paying half of something you didn't agree to. Especially when your kid is used as leverage. That's just messed.
posted by iamkimiam at 10:11 PM on March 31, 2009


Nthing the opinions of get a lawyer to look over everything ASAP.

I'm a custodial parent and I'd never consider pulling something like this, ever. I tend to be on the more lenient side and give what I consider reasonable amounts of extra visitation when it seems appropriate, and we have good communication about grades, extracurricular events, illness, whatever. If something out of the ordinary happens on my watch, which is most of the time, I call my kids' dad to let him know. I also listen to his opinion, regardless of how I feel about it or what my final decision may be. However, I take total responsibility for those final decisions.

My divorce was almost 10 years ago, but part of being a good parent is maintaining a reasonable relationship with the ex, especially as far as legal matters are concerned. I know some folks from Colorado, and I realize that the laws there are pretty strict as far as child support, etc., goes, but this is beyond the pale.
posted by lilywing13 at 1:29 AM on April 1, 2009


She signed her up for $10,000 worth of tutoring

Sure she did.

then turned around and demanded half the tuition from him

I've never heard of a tutor: A. Costing so much, and B. Requiring payment up-front before services have been rendered.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 6:32 AM on April 1, 2009 [1 favorite]


This is all going to be determined by the joint parenting/marriage settlement agreement. In my case, I am responsible for 50% of mutually agreed upon expenses related to school and school activities. Consult the divorce agreements and your attorney.
posted by brandsilence at 6:52 AM on April 1, 2009


Check shared parenting agreement for things of this nature. If it does not say anything then screw her (his ex that is... and not in the physical good way but in the negative financial way). He pays her child support. Whatever she wants to do with the support is her business, as long as it helps the child.
posted by Mastercheddaar at 7:05 AM on April 1, 2009


Thanks to all. In response to some questions, yes, the $10,000 was in advance - we saw the assessments and the invoice, and it was legit (if not absolutely ridiculous). The kicker to all of this is my husband is trying to immigrate to Canada, where I'm from, and we need Mom's co-operation as far as providing certain documents - a copy of Kid's passport and a photograph, eventually a medical exam - and so far, she's not providing it. Our application is ready, with the exception of the two documents, so it looks like he's going to have to fly to the States to somehow convince her to co-operate in person. Messy business, to be sure.
posted by redhaired_girl at 7:07 AM on April 1, 2009


Thanks to all. In response to some questions, yes, the $10,000 was in advance - we saw the assessments and the invoice, and it was legit (if not absolutely ridiculous). The kicker to all of this is my husband is trying to immigrate to Canada, where I'm from, and we need Mom's co-operation as far as providing certain documents - a copy of Kid's passport and a photograph, eventually a medical exam - and so far, she's not providing it. Our application is ready, with the exception of the two documents, so it looks like he's going to have to fly to the States to somehow convince her to co-operate in person. Messy business, to be sure.

He shouldn't need her in order to get copies of the child's passport, photo, etc. One of the few things that is standard in parenting agreements (at least when both parents have legal decision-making authority) is the ability to obtain any and all legal documents. If he has no legal decision-making, this may be harder.
posted by Lullen at 12:24 PM on April 1, 2009


The cost of some of those professional tutoring centers, e.g. Kumon, can be astronomical, for those of you doubting the cost.
posted by IndigoRain at 8:43 PM on April 1, 2009


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