Dear Cassie: I am in the process of going through a divorce. I have two children. My spouse and I both work full time. Traditionally, we have sent our children to summer camps in the summer. However, now that we are going through a divorce, I don’t know how these expenses will be paid. How does a court address these kinds of expenses?
Dear V.P.: You ask a great question – one that many of my clients ask during the course of their divorce.
The first thing you need to know is that the payment of summer camp costs is a form of child support, when summer camp is used for child care. In New Jersey, child support is based upon a formula called the Child Support Guidelines. The Guidelines apply in all cases in which the parties’ combined net (after-tax) income totals less than $187,200.00 per year. The Guidelines take into account a number of factors, including the number of children, the parties’ respective incomes, and the timesharing arrangements for the children. After the facts of each case are applied, the Guidelines identify the weekly sum owed from the non-custodial parent to the custodial parent in direct child support.
In cases in which the parties’ combined net income totals more than $187,200.00 per year, the Guidelines no longer control. In that event, the court deviates from the Guidelines and shifts to a fact-sensitive analysis to determine the child support owed, with the central focus being on the “reasonable needs of the child.”
The weekly sum of child support is typically designed to cover the children’s share of expenses for housing, food, clothing, transportation, entertainment, and other miscellaneous items. However, certain expenses, including work-related child care such as summer camp, are typically not included, and are paid in addition to the weekly child support sum. In many cases, they are paid by both parties in proportion to the parties’ incomes.
However, before a court will order one or both parties to pay for summer camp, the court will want to know about a number of factors, including whether the expense is necessary and reasonable; the parties’ respective abilities to pay for the cost; and the historical child care arrangements for the parties.
If you are dealing with the issue of child support and/or summer camp expenses, you should seek the advice of matrimonial counsel.
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Cassie Murphy is a divorce and family law Partner with the Law Offices of Paone, Zaleski & Murphy, with offices in Red Bank and Woodbridge.