Back to school: are school expenses included in child support?

Given that the start of the school year involves an average expenditure of around 300 euros per child according to some estimates, the return to classes may lead to arguments between divorced parents as to who is responsible for paying for their child’s school supplies. As lawyers specializing in family law, we can shed light on this issue.

We can start from the basis that all expenditures required for the child’s education are unequivocally included in child support, as established in article 142 of the Civil Code, even once they have reached the age of majority as long as they have not finished their training “due to a cause not attributable to them”.

Disagreements are usually related to determining whether school expenses are ordinary or extraordinary, or a bit of each, as in the case of “back-to-school” efforts. Considering them to be an extraordinary expense may be less burdensome for the person required to provide child support, because instead of adding the amount directly to the child support paid periodically, the burden would be evenly split between both parents.

You should keep in mind that the Civil Code doesn’t explicitly address the distinction between ordinary and extraordinary expenses, although it has been broadly established in case law. In addition, the criteria used to establish the amount of child support varies between judges and is not strictly subject to an official scale (although the General Council of the Judiciary has created an advisory table), leaving the door open to rulings that don’t include school expenses in the calculations, resulting in them being considered extraordinary expenses.

However, Supreme Court doctrine is quite clear in this regard: in ruling 579/2014, it was established that expenses related to the start of the school year are ordinary expenses since they occur periodically at a specific time with a relatively predictable amount. On the other hand, the category of extraordinary expenses is only applicable to those unpredictable expenses in which “it is not known if they will occur or when they will do so”. This doctrine has been applied and upheld in subsequent Supreme Court rulings, such as 557/2016 and 500/2017.

Thus, all expenses required for the child’s education must be taken into account when calculating child support, even back-to-school expenses. For clarification on any legal questions related to child support, you can count on the advice of ICN LEGAL, where we have extensive experience with family law matters.

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