If freezing temperatures and forecasts for snow have you wishing for longer days and warmer weather, you may be looking ahead to summer. And whether you’re divorcing or recently divorced, chances are you’ve given some thought to summer camp. Summer camp for most New Jersey families is no longer a luxury, but a necessary child care alternative for working parents. The New Jersey Child Support Guidelines contemplate a child’s basic needs: food, clothing and shelter, but what about the supplemental costs for raising a child?
Fortunately, Appendix IX-A to the Child Support Guidelines provides some guidance when answering the question of which parent pays towards summer camp expenses. If summer camp is considered a “necessary” expense, that is, it serves the same purpose as traditional day care – it is a facility that provides care to a child while the parent is at work – then the cost of summer camp is appropriately run through the Child Support Guidelines. Both parents, therefore, share in the cost of summer camp where it is considered a necessary arrangement due to the custodial parent’s work schedule.
Those who have experience with the Guidelines often understand firsthand that the expenses for day care and health insurance for the child can easily inflate a child support award by tens, if not hundreds of dollars.
With this in mind, divorcing spouses should have the summer camp conversation sooner, rather than later. If summer camp is contemplated as a child care option during the summer, parents are best advised to negotiate this item as part of the divorce. “Necessary” child care expenses can be run through the child support guidelines if they are fixed and recurring, or they can be paid “outside” of the Guidelines by agreement. An agreement to pay child care expenses such as summer camp outside of the Guidelines will typically result in a lesser weekly child support payment, but it will also require the obligor spouse to come up with a larger payment, often made directly to the summer camp, at the time of the child’s enrollment, or pursuant to some other payment arrangement in advance of summer camp. Parents can negotiate to share equally in the cost of summer camp or pay the cost of summer camp in proportion to their respective incomes.
The parties’ Marital Settlement Agreement (“MSA”) provides the law of the case once the parties are divorced. It is recommended that any discussions regarding the payment of summer camp and other child-related expenses be memorialized in the MSA. Settling this issue as part of the divorce is often less costly than making an application to the court post-judgment; if the application is a request by one parent for reimbursement for summer camp expenses incurred after-the-fact, the end result is rarely to the satisfaction of either parent.
Whether you seek to establish an initial child support award to include summer camp or child care expenses, or whether you seek to modify or enforce an existing child support order, the experienced family lawyers at Paras, Apy and Reiss, P.C. can help guide you through the child support system and assist you with navigating the many variables which impact a child support award.
The information in this article is not intended as legal advice. For legal advice, you should consult your attorney.