Parents always want what’s best for their children. This is an admirable sentiment, but it’s subject to change when a family is going through a dissolution or a legal separation. That sounds a bit extreme, but it sometimes happens when one parent insists that the other parent pay their child’s private school costs. California’s family codes don’t automatically include private school expenses as a factor in support calculations. As a parent, you have two ways to have those costs included in your child support payments.
- Establish a private school payment agreement with your spouse.
- Present evidence seeking a court order in favor of your private school payment request.
Parents simplify the process when they agree that one or both parents should share their child’s private school costs. In some situations, financial concerns become a cooperation stumbling block, but you still have options. Even if an estranged spouse doesn’t willingly agree to the added expenses, the court has the discretion to designate tuition as a reasonable child support expense. Of course, you must present evidence to substantiate your request.
A Certified Specialist in Family Law
Attorney Steven M. Bishop has helped many families resolve their child support issues before they become insurmountable. As a Certified Specialist in Family Law, Attorney Bishop has helped couples negotiate support arrangements for private schooling and other additional costs. When necessary, he prepares and presents your supporting evidence in Family Court. Attorney Bishop provides compassionate guidance and assistance as he works to resolve your most pressing issues.
How Much Does Private School Cost in California?
California has a history of litigation over child support and private school tuition. Parents rarely object to their child receiving a better quality education. Disagreements usually focus on cost. Tuition is the primary reason why joint or non-custodial parents rebel against paying for private school. Of course, it’s in the best interests of the child, but it’s usually a high-dollar child support add-on.
The website Private School Review documents 2020/21 school year tuition costs throughout the state. They receive regular updates from schools that confirm their tuition costs. The current average annual cost for private school education in California is $14,718 per year. Tuition varies widely depending on the school and the grade.
- Preschool: Ranges from a high of $47,000 to a low of $1,011
- Elementary school: Average cost per year, $11,569 (Highest, $61,000, Lowest, $1,200)
- High School: Average cost per year, $20,000 (Highest, $66,900, Lowest, $1,200)
What Does Child Support Pay For California?
California Family Law establishes specific child support goals under Statewide Uniform Guideline, §4050 – 4076. The provisions establish child support requirements that meet a child’s need for housing, food, clothing, extracurricular activities, and other expenses. The guidelines also ensure that children receive financial support that’s consistent with the state’s high standard of living and high child-raising costs. The law presumes that the parent with the most physical responsibility devotes a substantial amount of their resources to raising their child.
The guidelines include several additional child support standards.
- A parent’s primary obligation is to support their children “…according to the parent’s circumstances and station in life.”
- Both parents are “mutually responsible” for support.
- Support considers each parent’s income and responsibility for the child.
- Each parent should pay according to his/her ability.
- The child’s interests are the state’s top priority.
- Children should share both parents’ standard of living.
- Families should rely on private financial resources to meet their child’s needs.
Under §4062, family courts have discretion in issuing orders that may include these and other additional items.
- Child care costs while a parent works or enters a training or educational program to develop new employment skills
- Reasonable uninsured health care costs
- Costs for educational or special needs
- Visitation travel expenses
This discretion opens the door for a parent to receive child support that includes private school tuition costs. As with many court cases, the party requesting consideration has the burden of proving the need.
Presenting a Case for Private School Support
Many parents feel that private school is a choice, not a requirement. If you can’t convince your estranged spouse through sincere negotiation, you must persuade the court to find in your favor. You have several ways to plead your case. Your child’s school administrators and teachers should be able to provide evidence to help you substantiate your claims.
- Educational Stability: If your child is already in private school, transferring him or her to public school could have an adverse impact on their education. When a child switches schools, they lose touch with their friends and teachers. Considering the variation in learning standards and class offerings, a transfer could erase a child’s educational and social progress.
- Religious or Cultural Expectations: When your children attend a religious or culture-based school, it reinforces principles, traditions, and social behaviors they won’t learn in other schools. It can also be a requirement of certain religions.
- Special or Gifted Learning Needs: In a traditional public school, your gifted or special-needs child won’t usually get the attention they require based on their learning capacity.
- Your Active Involvement: As a parent, you interact with your child’s teachers. You take on special duties, and you attend school functions. You are actively involved in your child’s education. A move to a new school would alter that dynamic for both you and your child.
- Family Tradition: If your older children had the benefit of attending a private school, a change in household status shouldn’t change that tradition. It could affect your younger child’s overall education as well as college prospects and future career possibilities.
- Financial Means: When the other parent has the financial capability to pay private school costs, private school tuition won’t cause undue economic strain. This complies with child support guidelines which mandate that “Children should share in the standard of living of both parents.”
When you present a strong case, the court should accept your view that private school is a genuine obligation to your child. As both parents must share in the child’s support, the court may issue an order for one or both spouses to share the additional costs.
Contact The Law Offices of Steven M. Bishop
If private schooling provides the best education for your child, you might be able to work out an agreement with your spouse. If you can’t agree, the court will consider your evidence and make a decision. Either way, you should have a legal professional working on your behalf. Attorney Steven M. Bishop is a Certified Specialist in Family Law. He’s helped clients resolve child support issues during negotiations and in court. To schedule a consultation, call our office at (619) 299-9780 or complete our Contact Form.