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?
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).
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.…
Imagine that you and your spouse recently finalized your divorce. There were children born of the marriage who go to summer camp, participate in extracurricular activities, etc. The question arises, which parent pays for these activities? How about if you and your ex-spouse entered into a Property Settlement Agreement that specifically addresses the issue of payment, but you are unaware that the kids have already been enrolled in camp or activities and now you are just stuck with a bill to pay. Are you still obligated to pay if you had no notice before the children were signed up and the expenses incurred?
These issues formed the basis of a new and interesting unreported opinion from the Appellate Division entitled Zenn v. Zenn, found here. In the case, the father expressed a specific concern to the trial court that he wanted to have input into expenses incurred on behalf of the parties’ child before being compelled to contribute payment. Specifically at issue was the child’s attendance at summer camp and enrollment in extracurricular activities (ultimately, violin lessons). Heeding the father’s concern, the Court directed that both parties would be consulted prior to any expenses being incurred on behalf of the child. Language to that effect regarding camp and extracurricular activities was thereafter drafted into the parties’ Property Settlement Agreement. Notably, the father had agreed to pay for summer camp in 2004, but that there would be no such obligation unless the parties discussed future summer camp attendance. …