New Jersey Child Support: Who Pays for Lessons, Sports & Extracurricular Activities?

Young girl horse back riding on forest trail.

When parents negotiate over child support payments, one issue that can cause a snag is figuring out how to share expenses involving a child’s extracurricular activities above and beyond typical education-related costs, including sports participation and private music lessons. What can sometimes happen is that one parent is more enthusiastic in encouraging the child to take part in a wide variety of different activities, or the parent wants to help the child reach a high level of mastery in a certain art or sport by signing up for private lessons and/or buying special equipment. The other parent, however, may love their child and want to see them take part in activities they enjoy, but at the same time, doesn’t share the same view on the level or type of extracurricular participation, and therefore does not want these additional costs added to child support.

How do the courts settle these kinds of differences between parents?

A recent case in California, involving horseback riding lessons, sheds some light on the concept of “need vs. want” that judges often apply in these types of situations. The dispute in question involved ex-MGM movie mogul Kirk Kerkorian and his ex-wife Lisa Bonder. According to reports, Ms. Bonder filed a motion that stated her 16-year-old daughter Kira needed $491,000 a month just for equestrian expenses. As the basis of the request, Ms. Bonder stated that Kira is an accomplished rider who has Olympic aspirations. Her request was denied by a judge who stated, “There is a difference between the ‘needs’ of a child and the ‘wants’ of a child.” In other words, the child in question does not need to ride a horse, or compete in the Olympics. She only wants to. In situations like this, a judge can deny requests for additional money above and beyond basic costs or encourage parents to continue working on their own to reach a resolution.

In a high net worth case, such as this one, a judge can also look at the total sum of support payment being received each month. According to court documents, Ms. Bonder is already receiving $100,000 per month to maintain her child’s lifestyle. It’s reasonable that with this much money in play, a judge would put the responsibility back on the parent receiving this to re-budget expenses to pay for the extracurricular activity.

What about child support and extra curricular activities in New Jersey? If you are trying to figure out extracurricular activity expenses as part of your divorce, or you are already divorced and have a child who could really go the distance in a certain sport or activity, we have tips on how to work things out with your spouse in our blog “Kids, Sports and Divorce: How Can Co-Parents Support Their Child’s Olympic Dreams?“In it, we profile Michael Phelps and Gabby Douglas, two Olympic champions who pursued their dreams with the help of their divorced parents.