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Who's going to pay for summer camp?

As the school year winds down, you've likely begun to think about your summer plans. Your kids certainly are. Unlike previous summers, though, this may be your first summer flying solo as a single parent. Or, you could be considering divorce or already in the midst of the process. Whatever your situation, this summer will bring unique challenges to you.

As you start looking into child care options, family vacations, summer camps and other ways to keep your kids busy this summer, the question of cost may loom larger in your mind this year than in previous ones. Who's going to pay for all those summer vacation activities?

Does child support cover summer expenses?

Texas calculates child support via a standard formula that takes each parent's income and expenses into account, as well as the number of children you have together. As far as the law is concerned, child support should provide for the children's necessities, like food, housing and clothing. Extra expenses like after-school programs, day care costs and extra-curricular activities aren't typically included, though they can be if the court determines such expenses serve the best interests of the children.

For example, a stay-at-home mom who must now go back to work may ask to have child care costs factored into child support payments. It could be argued that summer camp becomes her summertime child care option, and thus should be included in child support calculations.

So, the simple answer is no, child support generally doesn't cover summer expenses, unless they were accounted for in your initial agreement, or you and your co-parent agreed to deviate from the guidelines altogether.

Plan ahead and communicate

Co-parenting effectively is a skill that all divorced or separated parents must learn. When it comes to summer vacations, communication is key. Unless you included specific scheduling guidelines for summer in your parenting agreement, you will need to discuss your vacation plans with your children's other parent - ideally well before signing your kids up for swimming lessons or before buying that fabulous hotel package to Disneyland.

When considering summer camp, for example, talk to your co-parent well in advance of the deadline for signing up to discuss how to split the cost. Notify him or her of your vacation plans now and determine if they will interfere with your regular visitation schedule. Consider renting a vacation home together and split the time between you (two weeks with one parent, two weeks with the other). The possibilities are endless, but only with proper planning and open-minded discussion.

Failure to communicate could have serious consequences. Whatever you do, do not stop making your regular child support payments or attempt to take the kids away without the other parent's knowledge. Such actions could quickly escalate into a nasty legal battle, which probably isn't how you planned on spending your summer.

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