A basic question in a New Jersey child-support case is which expenses are covered by child-support? Does child-support just cover food, shelter, and clothing for the child, or is it supposed to cover vacations, dance lessons, sports activities, and other non-basic expenses? I’m often asked by the parent who is paying child support if they have to provide money on top of the child support paid for their children’s entertainment expenses, car insurance, footwear, extracurricular activities, sporting equipment, and other expenses. The answer is generally no, unless they agree to contribute to those expenses. The New Jersey child support guidelines are very specific regarding what expenses are covered by child support.
According to the New Jersey child support guidelines all children’s clothing, (including school uniforms) are included in child support. Similarly, all children’s footwear (except special footwear for sports) is included in child support. So technically, after paying child support, the non-custodial parent has no obligation to pay for any clothing for their children (except sports footwear) as the child’s clothing is covered in the child support payment.
The New Jersey child support guidelines state that child support payments cover the costs of the following entertainment-related expenses: fees, memberships, admissions to sports, recreational or social events, televisions, mobile devices, sound equipment, pets, hobbies, toys, playground equipment, video games, photographic equipment, recreational, exercise or sports equipment, lessons and instructions.
As stated above, the cost of children’s clothing (except sports footwear), and the costs of children’s lessons and instructions are included in the basic child support payment. Therefore, the non-custodial parent is not obligated to contribute to the cost of the children’s extra-curricular activities such as music lessons, sports, arts programs, etc. The only way to obligate the non-custodial parent to contribute to these fees is to have a separate provision in your child support agreement which spells out each parents obligation for extra-curricular expenses. The typical provision provides that the parents will each pay a percentage of the expenses for the child’s extra-curricular activities (usually 50% each, or in proportion to their incomes) if they both agree on the activity. A caveat is usually put in that consent must be obtained from the other parent prior to enrolling the child in the activity, and that parental consent cannot be unreasonably withheld.
How Can I Make Sure That My Child Support Payment Is Being Spent on the Children
One of the more common frustrations that I have heard from non-custodial parents who are paying child support is that there is no way of accounting for how the money is spent. As the child support payment is forwarded in a lump-sum, the noncustodial parent has no mechanism to monitor what purchases are being made with the child support money. The reality is that the custodial parent can spend the money as they like. It would only be in the most egregious cases, where there is evidence that the child’s basic needs are not being met, that a noncustodial parent would be successful in court demanding an accounting of how the child support money is being spent.
Many noncustodial parents report to me that even though they pay child support to the custodial parent their children continue to come to them to ask them to buy basics that they would think would be covered by child support. They are then in the position of either denying their children, or paying for a covered expense twice.
If you have any questions about which expenses are covered by child support in New Jersey you can contact me directly at 201-731-3086 (toll-free at 844-431-3380) or via e-mail using the contact form. I have been representing clients in child support and related family law matters for over 20 years. My practice operates statewide with an emphasis on Northern New Jersey, including: Bergen, Hudson, Passaic, Essex, Union and Middlesex counties. Whether you contact me via telephone or e-mail the initial consultation is free of charge.