For many children, participating in extracurricular activities is critical to their growth and development. Young children can gain important early life experiences by participating in sports, taking lessons and engaging in other extracurricular activities; and, as children grow, cultivation of extraordinary talent can even guide decisions regarding career goals and choice of higher education institutions.
But, whether your children are destined to become professional athletes or musicians, or they simply enjoy learning and making new friends, expenses for extracurricular activities can be an important component of child support in a New Jersey divorce. For divorcing parents, understanding how New Jersey’s child support guidelines apply to extracurricular expenses can be imperative to establishing an appropriate child support award.
Extracurricular Expenses and Child Support: A Two-Part Approach
New Jersey’s child support laws take a two-part approach to addressing the issue of expenses for extracurricular activities:
“Entertainment” as a Component of Basic Child Support
First, along with housing, food, clothing, transportation and medical expenses, certain “entertainment” expenses are included as part of the basic child support award in New Jersey. Entertainment is defined under the law to include, “fees, memberships, and admissions to sports, recreation, or social events, lessons or instructions, . . . hobbies, toys, playground equipment, photographic equipment, film processing, video games, and recreational, exercise, or sports equipment.”
Based upon the parents’ respective incomes and other relevant factors, the paying parent’s child support obligation will include an amount designed to cover extracurricular activities that fall within this definition of “entertainment.” Other expenses for extracurricular activities (or those expenses that exceed the entertainment allotment in the parties’ basic child support award) must be addressed separately.
Extracurricular Expenses Falling Outside of the Basic Obligation
In some cases, certain extracurricular expenses will be considered too large to be included in the parties’ basic child support award. When this is the case, divorcing parents have a couple of options.
The first option is to address these “extraordinary expenses” as part of their child support determination. When these expenses are known at the time of divorce, this will often be the best option as it helps avoid potential disputes down the line. For example, if a child needs to travel frequently or attend a special camp or school in order to advance in his or her chosen activity, the parents could agree to split the associated costs as part of their divorce.
To account for unanticipated extraordinary expenses, parents can also include provisions for making joint decisions as part of their divorce settlement agreement. For example, it is common for parents to agree that they must mutually consent to a child’s participation in a costly activity; and, once they both consent, they then become obligated to share in the financial burden. There are a number of potential variations to this as well, and parents with children should be sure to explore all of their options during the divorce process.
Discuss Your Options with an Experienced Divorce Attorney
Helmer, Conley & Kasselman, P.A. is a team of experienced divorce and family lawyers who represent divorcing parents throughout New Jersey. If you have questions about child support, we encourage you to get in touch. To schedule a free, no-obligation consultation, call 1-877-435-6371 or inquire online today.