So you are a parent, and you don’t live with your ex, but your kid is about to reach that age when he/she will be driving. Who, if anyone, is required to pay for the kid’s car? What about other costs like insurance and repairs?
Although there is no absolute answer for sure, there is some guidance within New Jersey law that suggests that both parents may be required to pay such costs.
The Car Itself
In most cases, Child Support and other expenses for kids are governed by the New Jersey Child Support Guidelines. Within those Guidelines, there are certain expenses that are considered basics that are already included in the weekly support, and there are some expenses that are considered add-ons that must be paid in addition to the base support. According to the Rules of Court, base Child Support does not include “expenses associated with a motor vehicle purchased or leased for the intended primary use of the child.” New Jersey Rules of Court, Appendix IX-A, Consideration 8. Therefore, if one parent buys or leases a car for the kid, it is very likely that a court could make both parents pay for it. That said, parents must act reasonably. It is very unlikely that a judge would order parents to purchase their child a brand new, super expensive luxury car. As with anything in parenting, the courts expect people to act within reason.
A recent ruling in Ocean County gives some insight about car insurance. In Fichter v. Fichter, the parties had divorced when one child was of driving age and the other was not. The divorce decree allocated the cost of the older child’s auto insurance equally between the parents, but did not address the issue of car insurance for the younger child.
In the Fichter case, the judge ruled that the provision of motor vehicle insurance was an extremely important part of driving, noting that insurance protects not just the teenaged driver, but third parties as well. The court found that such issues should be addressed on a case-by-case basis, based on each family’s individual economic circumstances.
Though the court stopped short of requiring all parents to share in the cost of a child’s car insurance, it seems fairly clear that a court will not be reluctant to order payment, provided it seems fair to both parents. The ruling also seemed to indicate that fair may not necessarily mean equal, that a court could require one parent to pay more if that parent was in a stronger financial position.
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