Is the cost of hockey a special expense?
We have previously addressed the issue of sharing extracurricular expenses and other special activity expenses on this blog. One of the most common activity expenses in Ottawa is hockey. From skates and equipment to suits, travel, and hotels, the costs really add up! Whether these expenses qualify as “special expenses” can vary depending on many factors.
Expenses related to hockey do not automatically qualify as special expenses
Basic child support is intended to cover the ordinary costs of raising a child and many expenses associated with hockey are considered ordinary. For instance, suits and gym memberships are not likely to qualify for additional funding since these are often purchased in the ordinary course of raising a child and would be contemplated by basic child support amounts.
How does a judge decide?
Often times, a determining factor can be whether your child is playing at a community level or more competitive levels where registration, equipment and tournament costs can be quite high. A judge may also consider whether:
- your child is enrolled in many other organized activities;
- hockey is actively creating career prospects; and/or
- hockey is a positive and stabilizing influence in their life.
Important things to remember if you plan on making a claim for hockey expenses
Ask for consent and keep records
The most important things to keep in mind when splitting expenses with your spouse are to always ask for consent in advance, and to keep invoices. If you need to ask a judge to decide whether your spouse should pay, you will need to provide evidence of all your expenses, and if your spouse did not consent in advance, they may not be required to contribute.
Demonstrate that the expense is in your child’s best interests
For instance, consider whether hockey will advance their health or development, or improve their interests. This assessment should take into account the child’s strengths, weaknesses, past and present activities, and even opportunities to develop or refine a relationship with their parents.
Demonstrate the expense is reasonable and necessary
Each case has to be weighed on its own facts and each expense must be proved to be both reasonable and necessary. Hockey related expenses are given a fairly wide view by the courts, as each case turns on its own facts. It is important to show that the expenses and the couple’s spending pattern are consistent with those prior to separation, and that’s the costs won’t be easily covered by the table amount. As an example, an expense likely will not be found to be reasonable if you or your spouse are required to take on debt to finance it.
Talk to a lawyer
Never assume that an expense will qualify as a special expense. If your spouse is resistant to contributing to an expense, talk to a lawyer and find out whether there is a good case for claiming a contribution to the expense. If you incur an expense without your spouse's consent, you may end up having to cover the entire cost yourself.