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Extracurricular Activities and Child Support

June 1, 2015 | Posted In Family Law - Family Law

For many children, summer is just an endless stretch of free time.  Kids are out of school and able to sleep in, visit friends and go on vacation. But for many working and single parents, summer presents a challenge (especially with young children in the picture) and leaving kids home unsupervised is a concern.

Babysitting and child-minding expenses can get out of hand, and one way to provide kids with fun, entertainment, exercise, and supervision is to get them involved in extracurricular activities. However, when the bill for summer sports, camps, and play groups roll around, how do parents who have child support agreements split the costs?

Is an Extracurricular Activity Covered by State Guidelines?
Most child support agreements are made through a mediator or court order, and are legally binding. One parent is obligated to pay the other an agreed-upon amount that will cover food, clothing, shelter and other expenses that are incurred in the course of raising children. These expenses are laid out in New Jersey’s Child Support Guidelines, but some parents may not be aware where their children’s’ activities fall.

For example, in a recent case, a divorced couple found that the guidelines cover a variety of extracurricular activities, and these costs can be added into traditional child support requirements. In Elrom v. Elrom, the couple was married in 2005, and divorced in 2010 after having two children.

The ex-husband had several high-paying jobs in the technology and computer programming fields, and before their divorce, the couple enjoyed an upper middle class lifestyle. The ex-wife went back to work full-time as a lawyer after they had separated.

At trial, the ex-husband was ordered to make child support payments weekly and the amount ordered included insurance premiums, day-to-day care, and work-related childcare expenses.

As part of the child support agreement, the court ordered him to make additional payments—50 percent of the uncovered medical costs for the children in excess of $250 for each child, and 50 percent of the expenses for extracurricular activities and sports for each child, so long as the father agreed that the children could participate in these activities in advance. The ex-husband appealed the extracurricular requirement, and the New Jersey Appellate Judges turned to the child support guidelines to make their ruling.

The guidelines state that a child support requirement includes “entertainment expenditures, specifically fees, memberships, and admissions to sports, recreation, 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.”

The court found that not all extracurricular costs should be considered as part of the basic obligation for child support, and that some must be treated as additional expenses, especially those that are large or vary in amount and occurrence. “If incurred in a particular case, these expenses should be added to the basic support obligation as extraordinary expenses,” the court ruled, including private school tuitions or special needs expenses in this category.

Determining who should afford certain activities for your children may sometimes need to go through court channels. If you have a child support question or dispute, the New Jersey family attorneys at Helmer, Conley, and Kasselman, PA, are here to help.

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