Order Requiring Parents to Share in Unlimited Expenses is Unenforcable
A dispute that Missouri family law attorneys see on a regular basis is the sharing of children’s extracurricular activity expenses. Under Missouri law, the Court can require parents to share certain expenses, over and above the monthly child support amount. Included in these expenses are extracurricular activities, educational expenses, uninsured medical costs, and any other extraordinary costs. The Court of Appeals has recently held that, at least to extracurricular activities, and presumably to education and other expenses, the order must have “some limitation as to the scope of activities and resulting expenses or a cap on the total amount of [the parent’s] financial responsibility…to make the order sufficiently certain to be enforceable.”
This means that an order cannot simply require the parents to share a certain percentage in “all extracurricular activities”, particularly when one parent is given the discretion to make all decisions relating to those expenses. The Court noted that “[t]he term “extracurricular activities” is itself extremely broad. Not only is the range of activities that might qualify hard to define, each activity might include a number of different categories of expense (i.e. lessons, camps, equipment, uniforms, or travel). The Court held “that under the facts of this case the motion court should have used limiting language to define the scope of the activities covered by the order or, in the alternative, placed some sort of cap on the extraordinary expenses that Father had to pay for Daughter’s extracurricular activities, especially since it gave Mother sole discretion to decide which activities would occupy Daughter. A $200 monthly limit was imposed.
It is worth noting, though, that an agreement that is made for the sharing of expenses when the nature and extent of the expenses is known at the time is still enforceable regardless of limiting language, since the paying parent would have at least a general idea of what they were on the hook for financially
To see the entire opinion, click here.