Dear Cassie: I am divorced. My spouse has enrolled our children in a very expensive summer camp this summer.  Do I have to pay for it? 

-L.P.

Dear L.P.: 

The first question that must be answered is, what does your Marital Settlement Agreement or Judgment of Divorce say about the payment of these expenses?  If the issue of payment of summer camp costs is addressed in the Marital Settlement Agreement or Judgment of Divorce, those terms will control the answer to your question.

If the Marital Settlement Agreement is silent on the issue, the following points are instructive. First, the payment of summer camp costs is a form of child support, when summer camp is used for child care.  Usually, these expenses are not included in the direct child support owed from one party to another.  In other words, they are paid in addition to direct child support; 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.  Work-related child care costs are often, but not always, paid by both parties in proportion to the parties’ incomes.  

Your question does not indicate whether the summer camp is work-related (meaning, it is a form of child care due to employment obligations of the parties).  Your question also does not indicate whether this summer camp is a camp which your children have attended in prior years, or if the summer camp is a deviation from the typical type of summer camp attended by your children during the marriage.  If the latter, you will want to address with the court exactly why you oppose contributing to the costs of this new summer camp, including whether the expense is necessary and reasonable in the context of this family; 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. 

Have a divorce and family law question for Cassie?  Submit your question to admin@paonezaleski.com for consideration in the next edition of “Ask Cassie.” 

Cassie Murphy is a divorce and family law Partner with the Law Offices of Paone, Zaleski & Murphy, with offices in Red Bank and Woodbridge.