In a 2012 article, Forbes magazine broke down the costs families spend on raising an Olympic hopeful. What’s the scoop?
According to the article, “families of child gymnasts seeking to develop a contender can cough up $1,000 a month in coaching and travel costs. Those who reach elite status require more.” Have a child who is a skilled archer? “Archery typically costs the family of an aspiring Olympian up to $25,000 annually in coaching, equipment, trips, and practice range time. Success requires a rigorous work ethic of 250 shots a day, six days a week.”
For divorced parents, when presented with these kinds of costs, it’s natural for the next question to be: Who shoulders these exorbitant expenses for these prospective Olympians?
Divorced couples with children are always obligated in New Jersey to provide financial support for their kids and the majority of times child support numbers are calculated using the New Jersey Child Support Guidelines. These guidelines utilize the incomes of both parents and are to cover the basic needs of the kids, such as food, shelter, and clothing. The guidelines are meant to also cover expenses such as transportation, miscellaneous items and entertainment. It is within the entertainment category that you will find items such as fees, memberships and admissions to sports, recreational, or social events, lessons or instructions, hobbies and recreational, exercise or sports equipment.
But, what if your child is a “gifted” athlete? Do the guidelines cover the extraordinary expenses that go along with training for a shot on the Olympic team? Not necessarily. The guidelines specifically discuss unusual costs associated with the “special needs of gifted or disabled children” and how they should not be included in the basic calculations of the child support guidelines. Therefore, the parent of a gifted athlete can ask the court for greater contribution to these greater sporting costs from the other parent.
In 2014, in the unpublished case of Valenti v. Bassinder, a New Jersey appellate court talked about a father contributing to his child’s expensive sporting lessons. The court ordered Mr. Bassinder, the father of an accomplished teenaged fencer, to continue paying high amounts for tournaments, equipment, and other costs. In this case, the parents had an actual child support agreement where Bassinder had voluntarily agreed to pay over $100,000 per year, including amounts specified for weekly child support and for housing; private school tuition; and the cost of all “reasonable extracurricular activities.”
Beyond the financial costs, what about the time that is spent at lessons, in training, competing? And, what happens if the sporting activities fall on the days when the non-custodial parent is supposed to be having their parenting time with the child? In other words, what if spending all day Saturday at swimming meets or practice unfairly cuts into weekend parenting time? Generally speaking courts are firm in looking at what is in the best interests of the child. If your child is showing signs of greatness in any one sport or activity you will find that judges will encourage continued participation in that activity. Without question, one of the jobs of parenting is fostering your child’s interests, skills and talents and unless there is evidence that one parent is scheduling activities purposely during the other parent’s parenting time a court will order that participation in the activity continue.
If you are the parent of a gifted athlete and you are concerned about the time or money that your child’s sport is costing you and your family, please contact us today to schedule your initial consultation with one of our qualified family law attorneys experience in the areas of child support and parenting time.