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?
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.
Robert 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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
*photo by Bojans Cho Joo Young courtesy of freedigitalphotos.net