Child Support Obligation – What does it really cover?

The parent who does not have primary custody of the parties’ child(ren) will be required to pay child support to the parent who has primary custody.  In order to calculate that child support obligation, the courts in the State of New Jersey rely upon the Child Support Guidelines to determine the appropriate amount of child support.  After entering in all the appropriate and necessary income information for both parties, the Child Support Guidelines determine the child support obligation that the non-custodial parent will begin paying to the custodial parent.  However, there are often times many questions posed by either parent as to what specific costs and expenses are actually covered by child support obligations under the Child Support Guidelines.

Pursuant to the Child Support Guidelines, the following expenses are included in the child support obligation: housing, food, clothing, transportation, unreimbursed medical expenses up to and including the first $250.00 per child per year, entertainment, and miscellaneous items.  Appendix IX-A, which is found in the New Jersey Rules of Court, further explains each of these categories and what is incorporated into the calculation of the child support obligation.  Please note that if a family does not incur a particular expense listed under these includable expenses, this does not and would not constitute a basis for deviating from the Child Support Guidelines.  This list is meant to provide a general understanding  as to what is supposed to be included and covered in a child support obligation that has been calculated pursuant to the Child Support Guidelines, so that a supporting parent does not have to pay for the same thing twice and so that a supported parent understands what expenses have to be paid from the child support they receive.

HOUSING – The Child Support Guidelines specifically include payments towards the following, non-exhaustive list of items: Mortgage interest payments, property taxes, insurance, repairs, maintenance, rent, utilities, domestic services, lawn care/gardening, and pest control.  Mortgage principal payments are not included in the Child Support Guidelines because those expenses are considered savings because it adds equity to the home.  Obviously a portion of any child support obligation is meant to maintain a roof over the children’s heads, but it is often overlooked that the child support obligation is also meant to cover contributions towards all incidental housing expenses incurred on behalf of the children as provided above.

FOOD – The Child Support Guidelines specifically include payments towards any and all food and non-alcoholic beverages on behalf of the children, regardless of whether they are purchased for consumption in the home or outside of the home.  These expenses can include vending machines, restaurants, school lunches, and catered affairs.  This is another obvious inclusion in the costs meant to be covered by a child support obligation, however, it is not limited to simply three meals per day in the home.  It covers the broader spectrum of any and all food consumed, regardless of where or when it is consumed.

CLOTHING – The Child Support Guidelines specifically include payments towards all clothing, footwear, dry cleaning, laundry, watches, jewelry, diapers and repairs/alterations to clothing or footwear.  Generally speaking this is another obvious expense that is included in a child support obligation, however, it also includes often overlooked items such as diapers, jewelry, watches, and other accessories, while also covering the cleaning, repair or alteration of clothing items too.DCF 1.0

TRANSPORTATION – The Child Support Guidelines specifically include payments towards any and all costs associated with owning or leasing a vehicle, such as the following: monthly principal costs, finance charges, lease payments, gas, motor oil, insurance, maintenance and repairs.  Furthermore, the Child Support Guidelines also include the following incidental expenses: public transit, parking fees, license and registration fees, towing, tolls, and automobile service clubs such as AAA.  This is not as obvious an inclusion in child support as the previously mentioned items and can be easily overlooked, especially considering the fact that this includes expenses towards public transit, in addition to, car expenses.

UNREIMBURSED MEDICAL EXPENSES UP TO AND INCLUDING THE FIRST $250.00 PER CHILD, PER YEAR – The Child Support Guidelines specifically include payments towards any and all unreimbursed medical expenses up to and including the first $250.00 that is incurred per child, per year.  These expenses include all medical or dental expenses that are not reimbursed by insurance coverage.  Also included are non-prescription drugs, co-payments, health equipment/products, or health care services. This provision is very specific in nature and it is both parties’ responsibility to keep track and ensure that the supported parent is paying the first $250.00 per child, per year in unreimbursed medical expenses.  As set forth in the Child Support Guidelines, any expenses above and beyond the initial $250.00 per child, per year, should be split by the parties according to their respective income percentages as shown on the Child Support Guidelines worksheet, Line 6 (Percentage Share of Income).

ENTERTAINMENT – The Child Support Guidelines specifically include payments towards entertainment costs such as: fees, memberships, and admissions to sports, recreational, or social events, lessons or instructions, movie rentals, televisions, radios, pets, hobbies, toys, video games, recreational or sports equipment, etc.  This is by far the most overlooked expense that child support is meant to cover under the Child Support Guidelines.  Based upon this specific inclusion, child support is not simply meant for bare necessities of the children, but also their entertainment and enjoyment.file571244244029

MISCELLANEOUS ITEMS – The Child Support Guidelines also include a standard catch all provision that includes such expenses as the following: personal care products or services, books, magazines, education (tuition, books, supplies), cash contributions, personal insurance, and finance charges incurred other than vehicle or mortgage purchases.  These expenses include some often overlooked items that go hand in hand with some of the other expenses already listed elsewhere.

Obviously this is not meant to be an all-inclusive listing of expenses that are intended to be covered by child support.  It is simply meant to provide a general overview of the expenses that are specifically taken into consideration and included by the Child Support Guidelines.  Therefore, a party that pays child support under the Child Support Guidelines should never be required to contribute additional funds towards any of the above listed expenses because the child support obligation is meant to cover that parent’s contribution towards those expenses on behalf of the children.  If expenses are incurred that are not covered by the Child Support Guidelines, then the supported spouse would be required to seek and the supporting spouse could be required to pay those expenses above and beyond the child support obligation.  Having considerable experience and expertise in the area of child support obligations and the Child Support Guidelines, the attorneys at James P. Yudes, P.C., are available to assist you with any additional questions or concerns that one might have.