Brahm Siegel, a family lawyer in Toronto, answers:
The answer depends on a few items. First, it depends on whether the proposed expense is necessary, in relation to the child’s best interests. Secondly, it depends on whether the expense is reasonable, in relation to the means of the parties. When we talk about means, we mean how much money the proposed payer – but also any person that the proposed payer is living with – has.
The third item it depends on is the spending pattern of the parties prior to separation. For example, if the parties were paying for private school before they separated – and they could easily afford it, and they determined that it was somehow necessary for the child because, for example, the child was doing better there than he or she would have in a public school – a judge would likely deem that to be a special or extraordinary expense that the parties would have to contribute to in proportion to income after separation.
On the other hand, if the parties never had the child in private school during the marriage and now one person wants to enroll the child in such a school, and the parties clearly cannot afford it as two households with their separate incomes, and there’s no clear evidence that the private school would benefit the child much more than a public school, chances are that a judge would not call it a special or extraordinary expense – which might mean that the parent who wants the child in private school may have to give up the idea or find a way to pay for it him or herself.