Is Day Camp Reimbursable As Day Care Expenses?

Summer is swiftly coming upon us. With the specter of summer vacation for our children comes the question: Does my ex have to reimburse me for our children's summer/day camp expenses? The answer is maybe.

Day Care Expenses are Reimbursable 50/50

To answer the above question you have to first understand the reimbursement of work and educationally related day care expenses. Pursuant to California Family Code §4062. (a) The court shall order the following as additional child support: (1) Child care costs related to employment, or to reasonably necessary education or training for employment skills; (2) The reasonable uninsured health care costs for the children as provided in Section 4063; (b) The court may order the following as additional child support costs related to the educational or other special needs of the children and/or travel expenses for visitation.

One of the things I am asked frequently, as I practice Family Law in Santa Clara County, is the summer camp question. As summer camp is fast approaching, now is a good time to discuss this. The question is always the same: are summer camp expenses "child care" expenses for purposes of the child support guidelines? The answer will make a difference in the child support calculations. The reason for this is if a parent has work related day care or the day care for the child or children is for educational purposes then both parents have to share equally in the cost of the expense. Therefore if one parent pays for all of the day care, then that parent is entitled to be reimbursed ½. For example, if the custodial parent, (parent with the child or children most of the time, pays for all of the work related day care, then ½ of this cost will be added to the child support order as an additional add on. If the non-custodial paren, the parent paying child support usually, is the one paying for all of the daycare, then ½ of the cost of the daycare will be deducted from the child support the primary custodial parent is to receive. If both parents are paying for ½ of the daycare, there will be zero effect on the child support calculation.

However, if summer camp is child care, (necessary for work or school), then the expense is a mandatory add-on. The cost will be split between the parents 50/50 unless the court finds that doing so is disproportionate, (the circumstances do not warrant it.) The reasoning is that the child care expense is an income-producing expense of the parent. Had the family remained intact, the cost of the child care would have been shared equally between the parents as all income during the marriage is community unless provided for differently in a pre-nuptial agreement. It MUST be remembered that this is an expense to be shared by the parents and that it is incurred for the benefit of the child(ren). If the expense is discretionary, then it is not "child care". If the summer camp is not necessary to allow the parent who wants the summer camp for the child or children, then they may be ordered to have to pay for it without any reimbursement from the other parent in the court's discretion.

What the courts in Santa Clara County Superior Court, examine is whether the summer camp is taking the place of necessary child care. The question is: Is the custodial parent working or going to school?" The court will also look to the necessity of the child care/summer camp.

If the child is old enough to go without child care, then the court will not consider the cost of summer camp as being child care. Another question is going to be: Is the summer camp really an extracurricular activity? If you have a pre-teen or a teenager, especially one who is either about to go into highschool or is in highschool the court is not going to treat summer camp as day care and it will not be reimbursable. Again, it comes down to this: Is the summer camp necessary for employment, job search, or education calculated to result in employment or enhance income of current employment of either parent?

For the custodial parent, the strategy is clear: Argue (1) summer camp is a replacement for school year child care, necessitated by the custodial parent's work or education, and the age of the child; or (2) summer camp is an appropriate extra expenditure, given the parties' marital standard of living and expectations of child costs.