It is that time of year again, when parents are preparing their kids for the inevitable return to school in September and the inevitable costs that arise during this time of year. New school clothes, perhaps? Necessary school supplies? And, once the kids are back in class, there will be school dances, school pictures and fundraisers. If you are a parent of child and paying child support, what is your child support intended to cover with regard to back-to-school costs?
Child support in New Jersey is governed by the New Jersey Child Support Guidelines, a computer program that all courts utilize in order to determine a child support amount for parents in the Garden State. The guidelines, as they are more commonly known, are meant to cover the basic needs of your children, such as food, clothing and shelter. There is, of course, a miscellaneous category that is supposed to act as a catch-all for other expenses such as personal care products and services (e.g., hair, shaving, cosmetics), books and magazines, school supplies, cash contributions, personal insurance, and finance charges. Generally speaking, tuition for private school and college is expressly excluded from the guidelines is treated as a supplemental expense.
You probably noticed that the “miscellaneous” category does include school supplies. However, most folks underestimate the scope of school supplies. Back to school costs can include: school books, tutoring, backpacks, yearbooks, field trips, teacher gifts, school photos, transportation, cost of a computer, computer supplies, software, registration and admission fees, college test preparation fees, college application fees just to name a few. Parents in the process of calculating support frequently make oversights regarding these “hidden” expenses relating to their kids’ education. If you are attempting to figure out your child support needs or obligation, make sure to all of your expenses in your budget after dividing them by 12 to come up with a monthly figure.
So, the guidelines do intend to cover school supplies and back to school items. Of course, it would be impossible for the guidelines to include a detailed list of every possibly child care expense. However, if expenses are incurred that are not covered by the Child Support Guidelines, then the parent receiving the support would be required to ask the court for additional monies. The parent paying the support could be required to pay those expenses above and beyond the support obligation. In the end, it comes down to the discretion of the court and whether or not the expense is reasonable, part of the guideline amount or a support “add-on” expense.
If you are paying or receiving child support and are unsure what the support that you are paying or receiving is intended to cover, or if you feel as that your child support amount is incorrect, sit down and create a realistic budget so that you can clearly determine what all of your child support needs are.
If you need further advice or assistance on figuring out child support for your family or getting advice on how to modify a current child support award, please contact us to schedule your initial consultation with one of our experienced family law attorneys experienced in the laws governing New Jersey child support.