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I provide experienced legal guidance in family law, divorce and special education law. I represent parents and families throughout western Massachusetts.

Which parent pays in the pursuit of a child's athletic dream?

Children of divorced parents are extremely common today; this includes children pursuing their dreams of winning an Olympic gold medal. Famous Olympic gold medalist Michael Phelps was a child of divorce, as are many others in pursuit of their Olympic dreams. But, what does the financial situation look like for Mom and Dad when their financial lives have splintered and their son or daughter is going for gold? The average child support payment will not even begin to cover the types of training, equipment and travel costs related to pursuing an Olympic dream.

For the average child involved in extracurricular sports, those costs fall under a budget related to entertainment under the child support order. However, if your child is clearly advanced and on a higher road, the costs of pursuing an Olympic dream will greatly out-do that original entertainment budget by hundreds or even thousands of dollars. Since parents can only be expected to harness a reasonable percentage of income towards a child's best interests (and for a gifted child, this would mean training for an Olympic event), the courts use three ways to determine how and who will pay for this endeavor. The parents' income, settlement agreements related to child support and the child's talent and commitment to said sport are the three factors the court uses.

Usually the parent who is more supportive and enthusiastic about the child pursuing such a lofty goal will end up paying a larger burden of the associated costs. While every parent wants their child to succeed and do their best, someone has to pay for the training, equipment and travel in order to see Olympic results. Sometimes, parents are able to negotiate the burden of costs on their own; other times the court needs to step in. The court will always make a decision based on what is in the best interests of the child.

Divorced parents want their children to succeed as much as married parents do. There are many U.S. Olympic athletes who have pursued their dreams with a non-traditional family structure, so it is very possible. It may take some extra communication on the parents' end, followed by a rock-solid budget plan, but it can happen. Talented children should be given every opportunity to succeed.

Source: The Huffington Post, "When You're Divorced, Which Parent Pays For Your Child's Olympic Dreams?" Bari Zell Weinberger, August 18, 2016

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