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  • Writer's pictureJared Davies, Lawyer

Examining summer camp

Introduction


Summer camp is an exciting and fun-filled experience for many kids, and it can be quite convenient for parents. For children, it offers an opportunity to explore new activities, make friends, and develop important life skills. For parents, it offers an opportunity to keep their kids out of trouble while they are at work during the months when school is out. However, the cost of summer camp can be quite contentious after parents separate.

Firstly, it is important for parents to review the decision-making arrangements to determine who has the authority to make decisions regarding summer camp. Ammar v. Smith, 2021 ONSC 3204 provides a good sample of what an effective court order on the subject may look like:

Significant extra-curricular/athletic-related issues, include such things as a child's enrollment in activities, such as sports, summer camps, or lessons that would overlap each parent's time with a child. Either parent may enroll the children in extra-curricular activities to take place during his/her parenting time. If the extra-curricular activity(ies) fall during both parents time, then the parent enrolling the child in an extra-curricular activity shall obtain the consent of the other parent before enrollment occurs. If an extra-curricular/athletic-related issue has to be decided the Respondent will present to the Applicant in writing his proposed decisions, intended decision, taking a child's views and preferences into account. Both parents are entitled to copies of all communications between any organization or person teaching the child a sport or extra-curricular activity or running a program in which, the children are involved. If the parents cannot agree on a extra-curricular activity related to the children or either child, then the Applicant shall have final decision-making responsibility of this issue.

Once the decision-making authority has been established, parents will need to consider the logistics of summer camp. This may include selecting a camp that meets the child's interests and needs, determining the camp's dates and location, and arranging transportation to and from camp. Depending on the parenting arrangement, one parent may be responsible for these tasks, or they may need to work together to make the necessary arrangements.

Of primary importance is how the summer camp will be paid for. Depending on the financial situation of each parent, they may split the cost evenly or divide it in a way that is equitable amongst themselves. However, if no agreement is made then court will be necessary. Courts look at summer camp through the lens of section 7 of the Child Support Guidelines. Whether summer camp will be considered a section 7 expense will be determined on a case-by-case basis, depending on the facts in question. Typically, when summer camp is accepted as an appropriate section 7 expense it is considered a childcare expense or an extraordinary expense for extracurricular activities.

Overview of section 7


A section 7 analysis has several steps and considerations. The decision of Pryor v Pryor, 2018 ONCJ 953 gives a fulsome overview of section 7. However, this current post only deals with section 7(1)(a) - in other words, summer camp potentially being classified as a daycare expense because the parents are at work and the children need somewhere to go. If the summer camp is classified as a section 7 expense, typically parties will contribute to the camp in proportion to their income. Pryor v Pryor reviews the law around section 7 more generally.

Case Law

In Shepstone v. Shepstone, 2017 ONSC 2576, the court found that the cost of summer camp did not fall under section 7 because the cost was so low in comparison to the moving party was receiving in table child support:

65 In this case, I agree that the extracurricular activities are necessary in relation to the child's best interests. As well, they are reasonable in relation to the combined incomes of the parties. The expenses for swim membership and summer camp are modest in relation to the monthly child support that has been paid and the adjusted support to be paid commencing May 1, 2017. In my view, these are expenses that the mother can reasonably be expected to cover out of the child support. Therefore, I conclude that they are not extraordinary.

In R.M. v. P.M., 2021 ONSC 6743, the court found that summer camp was used as a method of daycare since it was necessary because of the parents’ employment, and the cost was split in proportion to the parties’ incomes. The same was true in M.M. v. E.M., 2020 ONSC 352:

123 The Father has claimed section 7 expenses for costs he incurred for the child's day care and summer camps, his gymnastics and trampoline expenses, and miscellaneous school expenses.

124 I have no difficulty ordering that the Mother pay her proportionate share of the child's day care expenses. I include in these costs any summer camps which I find were used as a method of day care.


These cases demonstrate, again, that cases are decided on their own unique facts.

Conclusion


In conclusion, summer camp can be a wonderful experience for children, but it can also be a source of stress and conflict for parents navigating family law. By considering key factors such as decision-making authority, logistics, parenting time, and communication, parents can work together to make summer camp make sense. One of the biggest concerns is the cost. Depending on the facts of the case, summer camp may be considered a section 7 expense. If summer camp is deemed to be an appropriate section 7 expense, the cost should be split in proportion to the incomes of the parents or some other agreeable arrangement.

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