In the case of Fichter v. Fichter, the New Jersey Appellate Court discussed the New Jersey Child Support Guidelines and amendments to the child support laws relating to car insurance for teen drivers. Do you need to pay car insurance for your teen driver, or should you expect your child’s other parent to share the costs?
In the case in questions, the parties were divorced in 2011 and, as per their divorce agreement, shared joint legal custody of their children, Todd and Megan. Todd was seventeen years old at the time of the divorce and driving. Megan was only thirteen. Mr. Fichter was to pay $303 per week in child support for both children. This amount was calculated using the New Jersey Child Support Guidelines. Also in their agreement, it was decided that both Mr. and Mrs. Fichter would contribute to the cost of Todd’s car insurance. The agreement did not discuss Megan’s future car insurance.
At the time this case was brought, Meghan had begun driving. Todd was emancipated and on his own, so, Mr. Fichter’s child support had dropped to $213 per week. He was not contributing to Megan’s car insurance, so Ms. Fichter brought the matter to court, asking that he be ordered to contribute to this cost. Mr. Fichter never responded.
The court found that while the 2013 amendments to the Child Support Guidelines addressed child support as it related to the cost of purchasing a vehicle for a teen driver, it did not specifically address the cost of insurance for that car. However, the court concluded that reasonable car insurance was necessary not only to protect the new driver, but also to protect society at large. The court also noted the significant expense of car insurance for a teen driver and indicated that a parent with custody may not be able to afford to insure the child without additional support and contribution from the other parent.
Despite the ambiguity of the amendments to the law governing the guidelines, which does make reference to “insurance” being part of the guideline amount and not an add-on expense, the court indicated that insurance costs can vary greatly from family to family, and therefore, cannot be subject to one formula for all families across the state as calculated by the guidelines.
Consequently, the court, after looking at the facts of this case and the parties’ financial statements, found that it was reasonable for Ms. Fichter to receive contribution from Mr. Fichter for Megan’s car insurance costs, stating that it was responsible and prudent for her to obtain insurance for their daughter. On the other hand, the court found nothing economically unfair to Mr. Fichter if he were to be ordered to contribute to the insurance costs.
The result? Mr. Fichter is to contribute fifty percent of the cost of Megan’s car insurance. The court acknowledged that down the road, Megan may, herself, upon turning eighteen, be obligated to contribute to her insurance as well.
If you need advice regarding your child support payments or other support for your children, please contact us today to schedule your initial consultation with one of our attorneys experienced in child support and the New Jersey Child Support Guidelines.