The short and simple answer to this question is that in most cases a non-custodial parent will not be required to pay additional child support for the children’s extra-curricular activities since the basic child support award under the New Jersey Child Support Guidelines takes such expenses into consideration when child support is calculated. In fact, the basic child support award under the New Jersey Child Support Guidelines includes expenses for housing, food, clothing, transportation, entertainment, unreimbursed health care up to and including $250.00 per child per year, and miscellaneous items. Pressler, Current N.J. Court Rules, Appendix IX-A to R. 5:6A at 2585 (2014) (emphasis added). Entertainment expenses are defined as fees, memberships and admissions to sports, recreational or social events, lessons or instructions, movie rentals, televisions, mobile devices, sound equipment, pets, hobbies, toys, playground equipment, photographic equipment, film processing, video games, and recreational, exercise or sports equipment. Pressler, Current N.J. Court Rules, Appendix IX-A to R. 5:6A at 2586 (2014).
However, the Appendix to the New Jersey Court Rules provides that “because some child-related expenses represent large or variable expenditures . . . it is not appropriate to include them in basic child support awards.” Pressler, Current N.J. Court Rules, Appendix IX-A to R. 5:6A at 2586 (2014). Certain extraordinary expenses that are both predictable and recurring, if approved by the Court, that are not included in the basic child support amount, may be added to the basic child support award. Pressler, Current N.J. Court Rules, Appendix IX-B to R. 5:6A at 2617 (2014). Examples of extraordinary expenditures are transportation expenses incurred by the non-custodial parent for parenting time, special diets, and private education costs for gifted or handicapped children. Id.
Other extraordinary expenses that are not predictable and recurring may, in the discretion of the trial court be added to the support obligation of a high income earner. Isaacson v. Isaacson, 348 N.J. Super. 560, 580-581 (App. Div. 2002). Extraordinary expenses that are not predictable and recurring should be shared between the parents in proportion to their relative incomes as incurred. Accardi v. Accardi, 369 N.J. Super. 75, 89 (App. Div. 2004) citing Pressler, Current N.J. Court Rules, Appendix IX-B at 2578 (2013).
High Assets and Child Support Responsibilities
Wealthier families also can be treated differently. In divorced families where parents have significant financial resources, their obligations to contribute to their children’s extracurricular activities above and beyond the basic child support award will more likely be ordered by the Court due to their financial ability pay such expenses. “In high income families, ‘the children are entitled to the benefit of financial advantages available to them.’” Crist v. Crist, WL 2744284 at 4 (App. Div. 2008) citing Accardi v. Accardi, 369 N.J. Super. 75, 88 (App. Div. 2004). When claiming that a non-custodial parent should contribute towards certain extraordinary expenses, “the moving party bears the burden of proof to demonstrate that the expenses are both legitimate and reasonable.” Crist, Supra, at 4 citing Accardi, Supra, 369 N.J. Super. at 87. In Crist, where the custodial parent’s request for contribution toward the children’s extraordinary expenses included the cost of field hockey camp, driving school, a class ring, passports, and class trips, the Appellate Division found that the trial court should have held a limited trial to determine, (1) which expenses were extraordinary; (2) which expenses were ordinary extracurricular expenses; (3) whether such extracurricular expenses should have been added to or included in the defendant’s support obligation under the statutory factors; and (4) the percentage of the extraordinary and extracurricular expenses that each parent was responsible to pay. Crist, Supra, at 5. In Tuman, the non-custodial parent was required to contribute toward the children’s “extraordinary expenses” including Hebrew school, summer camp, after school activities, and required school materials (a computer). Tuman v. Tuman, WL 181303 at 3-4 (App. Div. 2011).
Although there is little case law defining extraordinary expenses, a child’s exceptional academic or athletic talent may require that a non-custodial parent contribute additional support above and beyond the basic child support award. However, it is unclear to what extent a child must be athletically or academically gifted in order to require that a parent contribute additional support for his or her child’s extracurricular activities. For example, is it required that a child be a phenom from a young age, like Lebron James, or is it sufficient that the child be only one of the more gifted athletes in the locality where he or she competes? Although this question may not have a definite answer at this time, a child’s exceptional academic or athletic talent and the non-custodial parent’s obligation to contribute to same will ultimately be tempered by both parents’ financial circumstances and ability to contribute toward such expenses.
Contact the New Jersey Child Support Lawyers at Lyons & Associates
In short, in most cases the non-custodial parent will not be required to pay additional child support above and beyond his or her basic child support obligation set forth in the New Jersey Child Support Guidelines. However, each case is fact sensitive, and this determination is not automatic. If you or someone you know has questions about whether additional child support should be paid for your children’s extra-curricular activities, then call one of the skilled attorneys at Lyons & Associates at 908-575-9777 for a consultation today. You can also fill out our online intake form.
Written By: Mark T. Gabriel