• by Carly Mellon
According to section 7 of the Federal Child Support Guidelines there are two guiding principles to help determine what is considered a special or extraordinary expense: necessity and reasonableness.
The courts will look at the proposed section 7 expense and ask if it is necessary in relation to the child’s best interests and if it is reasonable based on the financial situation of the parents and the history of the family’s spending prior to separation.
Section 7 expenses can include childcare if you or the other parent have to pay for childcare because of work schedules, illness, school, etc. Health care is another area where a parent can claim a section 7 expense. This includes expenses that aren’t covered by yours or your ex- spouse’s insurance including orthodontics, therapy, prescriptions, glasses, etc. A third area for section 7 expenses is education such as post-secondary education, tutoring, or other educational programs for a child who is still in elementary school to high school. Lastly, extracurricular activities such as soccer, gymnastics, or piano can be a proposed section 7 expense.
One of the reasons as to why we have section 7 expenses is because the Guideline amounts that a parent would receive from child support only cover basic necessities for your child.
Not every family has the means to pay for extracurriculars and not every family has children who require glasses, prescriptions, etc. Therefore, section 7 expenses were created for additional expenses that parents may incur for their children. It may help you understand what a section 7 expense is if it is explained what a section 7 expense is not.
Clothing, groceries, dining out, toys, etc. are not considered section 7 expenses, rather they are to be included in how you use your child support payments.
When proposing a section 7 expense, it is important to keep in mind how is this considering to be in the best interests of your child and does this expense follow your family spending patterns prior to separation.
If you are the parent proposing a section 7 expense to your ex-spouse, the onus, or responsibility, is on you to prove that the expense qualifies under the Guidelines for a section 7 expense. The parent proposing the expense must notify the other parent in writing as well as seek consent. The cost for a section 7 expense (i.e. the activity, prescription, etc.) is divided between the parents. How much each parent has to pay is determined by the spouse’s income, as well as what they would receive in support. This means that the expense is not always going to be divided 50/50.
Proposed section 7 expenses, and how those expenses are to be divided, can be written into separation agreements that both parents must follow.
Alternatively, a parent can bring a motion if the other parent is not agreeing to help cover the expense. In the motion the parent, or their lawyer if represented, should explain to the judge what the expense is, what is the reason for the expense and its cost. Equally important, they should outline how the expense is necessary and reasonable. The judge will then make an order whether the expense qualifies as a section 7 expense and how much each parent should contribute to its cost.
If you still have questions about section 7 expenses in general or if you have a question about a specific section 7 expense, please contact Frenkel Tobin LLP and we would be happy to assist you.