extracurricular activities

Many divorce or support proceedings involve the issue of who is going to pay for extracurricular activities.  Who is paying for sports?  Band?  Social clubs?  Art?  Drama and more?

skating pic

While settlement agreements commonly have a separate payment allocation for such expenses from the basic child support obligation – commonly in proportion to the parties’ respective incomes, the New Jersey Child Support Guidelines actually include predictable and recurring activities and lessons the category of “entertainment” in the basic child support obligation.

Entertainment” includes:  Fees, memberships and admissions to sports, recreational, 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.

Expenses that are not “predictable and recurring” should not be included in the basic obligation but, rather, should be shared by the parents in proportion to their respective incomes.  As can be read from the definition of “Entertainment”, it would seem that most extracurricular activities would fall into the realm of predictable and recurring.  Since application of the Child Support Guidelines is presumed, a court must explain why any deviation therefrom is appropriate.

In Elrom v. Elrom, a newly published (precedential) decision from the Appellate Division, the appellate court found that the trial court failed to explain why it deviated from the Guidelines by adding extracurricular activity costs as supplemental support.  There was no indication by the trial court – in requiring the parties to equally divide the payment for extracurricular activities beyond the basic support obligation – as to why such activities were to be separately paid for from the basic support obligation.  Put another way, there was no indication by the court as to why the activities at issue were somehow deemed other than predictable and recurring.  As a result, the Appellate Division ordered a limited remand to the trial court.

Thus, whether you are negotiating or litigating the issue of extracurricular activity payments, be sure to consider whether such activities are predictable and recurring and, thus, should be included in the basic support obligation, or whether such payments should be made separately therefrom.

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Robert A. EpsteinRobert Epstein is a partner in Fox Rothschild LLP’s Family Law Practice Group. Robert practices throughout New Jersey and is based in the firm’s Roseland, New Jersey office.  He can be reached at (973) 994-7526, or repstein@foxrothschild.com.

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*photo by Bojans Cho Joo Young courtesy of freedigitalphotos.net

Earlier today I posted ablog entry on the unreported Appellate Division decision in Holden v, Holden decided on October 28, 2010.  In that piece, I discussed how the court based support on the father’s gross income because of his history of not paying taxes.  The case was interesting for other reasons, as well. 

In this case, the parties net income exceeded the maximum net incomes under the Child Support Guidelines.  The trial court entered a somewhat arbitrary award with regard to past and prospective child support which did not take into account the children’s actual needs.  This, in part, was brought on by the fact that the parties did not present all of the relevant information regarding the children’s needs (each had custody of one child).  The father appealed on this ground.

In reversing, the Appellate Division agreed with the father, restating the law as follows:

It is undisputed that where family income exceeds the maximum amount under the guidelines, the court has discretion to calculate child support using the maximum support under the guidelines and "combin[e] that preliminary figure with a
supplemental award subject to the provisions of N.J.S.A. 2A:34-23a . . . ." Pascale v. Pascale, 140 N.J. 583, 595 (l995).

 

Continue Reading When Income is Over the Limit for Guidelines, A Court Cannot Extroplate from The Guidelines

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.

Continue Reading WILL NEW JERSEY BUDGET CRISIS LEAD TO MORE CHILD SUPPORT LITIGATION