Suburban school districts were some of the most hard it by Governor Christie’s new budget specifically, and New Jersey’s budget crisis overall. Many districts were already bracing for the bad news for several months, and had proposed school district budgets containing a lot of belt tightening. However, the cuts were much worse than expected causing many school districts to asses how to meet the shortfall. Some suggestions were lay offs, others were to cut services and some districts are considering both.
How does this apply to New Jersey family law you ask? Some school districts are considering eliminating or charging for transportation. This would be a new and/or unanticipated expenses. Some districts are also considering eliminating or charging for sports and other extracurricular activities.
While the child support guidelines take into account some extra curricular activities of nominal costs, i.e. girl scouts. town sports, low cost school enrichment activities, they certainly do not consider school transportation and school sports. Similarly, most support Orders and divorce agreements would not consider this either because it is not usually an issue. If parties cannot agree on a fair and appropriate sharing of these expenses, or for that matter, how to get the children to school if the school isn’t providing the transportation, then the courts could be burdened with applications to decide this issue. It would seemingly be unfair to saddle the custodial parent with the entire financial and/or transportation responsibility under these unusual circumstances.
Also, what if the custodial parent has to change or reduce their work hours because they have to bring kids to and from school? Arguably that is a change of circumstances such that support may need to be recalculated.
Many towns are also considering raising taxes to meet these school budget short falls. For one town, I heard that for houses in the $450,000 to $550,000 range, modest homes for that town, taxes could go up by $1,000 or more. Perhaps a higher tax obligation related simply to meet a school budget crisis needs to be equitably apportioned between both parents.
Like it or not, the Governor had to make tough choices. Will the effect of those choices impact the family courts. This remains to be seen.