Figuring Out Extra-Curricular Costs
Many families can’t agree how much to spend on child activities. One parent usually wants to spend a lot more than the other. That difference in priorities can really cause problems for parents who are divorced or live apart.
In the recent T.M.B. case, the parents squabbled over horse costs for their teenage daughter. Their original Court order required Father was to pay horseback riding fees and buy the child a horse and a saddle. The child grew passionate about horseback riding, but Mom and Dad couldn’t agree how much to spend on a horse.
Mom wanted a horse in the $10,000 to $15,000 range. Dad thought that was too much. He came up with a list of the horses he was willing to buy, offering to purchase one with a price tag of $800. They couldn’t reconcile their different views. So, no horse was ever purchased, and the parents went back to court.
The child’s riding instructor testified at the hearing. She stated that the child began training in the hunter-jumper style of riding one year ago. The child used a horse and saddle that were provided by the stable. The instructor testified that a horse capable of hunter-jumper riding would typically cost $10,000 to $15,000. The instructor also testified that an $800 horse would be too old for hunter-jumper work.
The trial court issued a new order that tried to appease both sides. The new order had these requirements:
- The parents must exchange lists of potential horses in the $3,000 to $10,000 price range.
- Each parent must visit the horses on the lists.
- Mom, Dad, and Daughter all have to be “involved” in the purchase decision.
- They must consider the “opinion and assistance” of the riding instructor.
- If they still couldn’t agree after all that, Dad gets to make the final decision.
The case went up on appeal. The Court of Appeals issued an opinion that approved of the trial court’s new order. The appellate court found that the initial order’s requirement to buy “a horse” was ambiguous because it could be interpreted in numerous ways. What breed? What quality? In this case, Dad wanted to buy an $800 horse, and Mom expected him to spend at least $10,000.
The Court of Appeals found that:
“The trial court did not err in clarifying the term “horse” to be a steed that will meet Child’s needs without being unduly expensive, or in [the] procedure for the parties to choose a suitable horse.”
– In re T.M.B., 18A-JP-2907 (Ct. App. 2019)