Caring for your children isn’t cheap, and the expenses of child-rearing can be even more noticeable after separating from a spouse. Whether you’re paying or receiving child support, you may be wondering which expenses are supposed to be covered by child support in New Jersey.
Understanding the expenses covered by regular child support payments can help you budget for the needs of your family. You can also ensure that the child’s other parent is paying their fair share.
Generally, child support is intended to cover a portion of the child’s basic needs, such as food, clothing, toiletries, and housing. The support is almost never supposed to cover 100% of a child’s expenses, since the parent who receives the payments is also responsible for some portion of the child’s economic needs.
Child support may also include health care expenses and work-related childcare costs. Transportation or certain private education costs are also sometimes covered by child support.
If you’re dealing with a child support case, a knowledgeable, local family law attorney can help you understand New Jersey’s child support laws. The attorneys at Villani & DeLuca work to make sure you’re treated fairly and that your child gets the financial support they deserve from both parents.
Child Support Payments Seldom Cover All Expenses
In New Jersey, both parents have a continuous duty to provide financial support for a child, and parents owe support in proportion to their incomes. New Jersey law assumes that a parent will pay for a child’s basic needs while the child is in their care.
Generally, child support payments are supposed to ensure that the child can enjoy proper financial funding from each parent regardless of who has more time. For example, when one parent has sole custody, the other is typically expected to pay child support. However, the law doesn’t expect child support payments to cover all of the child’s expenses; the custodial parent also has a duty to contribute financially to the child’s needs. Child support payments should help with covered expenses, not pay for them entirely. There are rare exceptions to this rule if a parent is unable to work or is caring for a very young baby.
This concept can be confusing as well as frustrating since the parent receiving child support doesn’t usually have to provide any accounting for expenses or money contributed. Whether you expect to pay or receive support, an experienced New Jersey family lawyer can help you understand child support calculations and protect your rights in court.
Basic Needs Covered by Child Support
Child support payments are meant to contribute to a child’s individual needs and expenses. That means a parent receiving child support is not entitled to ask the other party for additional contributions for these basic expenses.
A child’s individual needs and expenses include regularly purchased items, including clothing, diapers, and personal toiletries. Child support is also expected to contribute to some basic items that are infrequently purchased, such as a winter coat or bedding. Since child support isn’t adjusted in the months these items are purchased, the parent receiving support payments may need to plan accordingly.
Finally, child support should contribute to expenses that may not be essential for survival but are normal when raising a child. These include costs for toys, entertainment, and recreational activities.
Pooled Household Expenses and Child Support
New Jersey recognizes that much of the cost for raising children comes in the form of pooled household expenses. These are expenses for shared household needs and can refer to both the space needed for a child as well as shared household items.
These types of expenses were taken into consideration when lawmakers established New Jersey’s child support guidelines and are also considered by judges for the financial allowance. Therefore, child support payments should help cover expenses such as:
- The cost of an extra bedroom for the child
- Food for shared family meals
- Shared household goods, such as laundry detergent
Because child support contributes to these types of costs, the parent who pays out funds cannot just purchase food, clothes, or other items for the child in lieu of child support payments.
What Happens When the Child is in the Care of the Parent Who Pays Support?
In many families, the parent who pays child support also has significant amounts of parenting time, including overnights. That parent is expected to provide for the basic needs of the child during this time. Child support payments are structured to balance the child’s economic situation among families and aren’t meant to be the only financial contribution provided by the paying parent.
However, to allow for smooth transitions between households, parents may wish to let the child take certain items back and forth between homes. Parents who have an amicable relationship may also find ways to share the costs of expensive items needed at both houses.
Health Care and Added Expenses
The court may also add predictable and recurring expenditures to child support. The cost of the child’s health insurance and certain unreimbursed medical expenses should be included when calculating child support. New Jersey Statutes § 2A:34-23c mandate that the child support arrangements contain provisions defining which party is responsible for ensuring the child’s health care coverage and terms contributing to the compliance of the plan. For example, a custodial parent may be ordered to keep a health insurance plan for the child, and the other parent could be required to pay a portion of the child’s premium as part of the child support fee.
Child support may include work-related childcare costs for a child who is under 13 years old or disabled. A judge may also incorporate regular transportation costs and certain education-related expenses in the orders. Finally, if a child requires regular equipment, services, or other support for special needs, these expenses may be included in the plan. A child support payment will, of course, be considered to cover any type of special or extra expense included in the support calculation.
Expenses Not Covered by New Jersey Child Support
Child support doesn’t cover every expense a parent may encounter when raising a child. Generally, costs that aren’t recurring, predictable, or related to a medical need, aren’t covered by child support in New Jersey. Examples of expenses not covered by child support include:
- College tuition and related expenses
- Large birthday parties or other celebrations
- Special activities or vacations
- Some extracurricular activities
- Special expenses not approved by the court
The parent who receives child support payments is usually allowed to decide how to spend the money, so it’s possible that child support funds will be used for these non-covered expenses. However, these are not considered to be part of child support, and a parent isn’t entitled to request additional compensation for such costs.
Speak with a New Jersey Child Support Lawyer About Your Questions
Child support rules aren’t easy to understand or apply in every case, and unusual situations can make a case particularly tricky. You may be wondering how to meet all of your child’s needs without giving up your own valuable rights. Or, you may be wondering how you’ll pay for your child to participate in a much-loved activity or get the medical care they need.
No matter which side of a case you find yourself on, the attorneys at Villani & DeLuca can help you navigate New Jersey child support laws and courts. Contact a qualified New Jersey family law attorney now to get your questions answered.