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I Pay Child Support: Am I Legally Obligated to Contribute Extra Money to my Child’s Back-to-School Costs?

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It’s back-to-school time of year again. This can be an exciting time for your children (I was never that excited about the end of summer vacation). Your children are returning to spend days with their friends, entering a new experience in their lives, and some may be entering a new school. Back-to-school sales are everywhere. Back-to-school preparation can be intense: there are lists, lists and more lists for supplies. Unfortunately, some parents miss the excitement of back-to-school preparation with their children due to a spousal breakup or divorce.

Here is a question I recently received: a noncustodial parent is paying child support, but an ex-spouse is asking for additional money to pay for a child’s school supplies. Is there a legal obligation to contribute to school supply cost on top of your child support?

The simple answer to this is: No, you are not legally obligated to contribute to school supply cost on top of your child support. This is the legal answer. While there is a moral answer to this question, let me deal with the legal answer.

In Minnesota, a parent’s primary duty is to support their children. This duty to support begins when a child is born. In Minnesota, there are 3 child support guidelines: 1) Basic Support; 2) Medical Support; and 3) Childcare Support. In my opinion, school supplies falls under 1) Basic Support Guideline. Medical support deals with a child’s health insurance, and childcare costs deals with childcare if a child is under a certain age before school, which allows a custodial parent time to work.

Basic Support (found at Minnesota Statutes Section 518A.26, Subdivision 4) includes a dollar amount for a child’s housing, food, clothing, transportation, education costs, and OTHER expenses.

Basic Support is calculated by adding Parent A and Parent B’s gross income. There are adjustments and computations that can be made for child overnights at Parent A or Parent B’s, disparity in earnings etc. After all computations, deductions and/or additions, a dollar amount for Basic Support is reached which becomes the obligating parent obligation to pay the other parent.

In my opinion, if you are paying Basic Child Support in Minnesota, you are not legally required to pay extra for school supplies on top of your child support obligation. Basic Child Support covers your obligation toward your child’s education, and OTHER expenses. Education can mean school supplies, should that fail, school supplies can fall under OTHER expenses.

I will not speak to any personal moral obligation, as this is each person’s decision to make.

If you, or someone you know, is experiencing legal issues when it comes to child support obligations or legal issues gaining access to their children, feel free to contact my office at (716) 776–9726, for a free 30-minute consultation. Alternatively, email me, pwalsh@thelegaldad.com.

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Padraic D. Walsh
Attorney at Law
Walsh Law PLLC

Minneapolis, MN 55413

(716) 776–9726


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