Ann Fabrikant, Esq.NJ Divorce and Family Law Attorney
One of the silver linings to being a divorced parents is not having to miss out on your child’s milestones. The day your son or daughter becomes a licensed driver would be one of those milestones, for sure. The flip side to that coin is that you won’t miss out on paying for said milestones, either. The point is that after seventeen years of being the family shuttle service, you are now handing those keys over and assuming a whole new assortment of worries. One question in particular stands out. How will child support cover the cost of said worries?
The truth is that the fixed Child Support guidelines tend to fall short of the fluctuating costs of rapidly evolving young adults. Obviously, the bulk of the new driver expense is the car insurance. Over the years, family law attorneys and their clients would request that this expense be treated as an “add-on”, over and above the existing child support payment. The very question of whether or not the Court can do this in the first place has been debated in legal circles.
Eventually, in 2013, the New Jersey Child Support Guidelines were amended and this matter was addressed accordingly:
“Transportation – All costs involved with owning or leasing an automobile including monthly installments toward principal cost, finance charges (interest), lease payments, gas and motor oil, insurance, maintenance and repairs. Also, included are other costs related to transportation such as public transit, parking fees, license and registration fees, towing, tolls, and automobile service clubs. The net outlay (purchase price minus the trade-in value) for a vehicle purchase is not included. Transportation also does not include expenses associated with a motor vehicle purchased or leased for the intended primary use of a child subject to the support order.”
Essentially, the Guidelines are saying that if your child is merely taking over your vehicle, costs should essentially remain the same. Child support will include those costs. On the other hand, if you buy your child his or her own car, the cost of purchasing it along with all other related expenses, even insurance, would be considered “add-ons” and not part of regular child support.
Auto insurance is the deal breaker. Surprised? It is common knowledge that adding an inexperienced driver to your existing auto insurance precipitates a hefty increase. Yet, if you buy your son or daughter a brand new car, insurance is presumed to be among the expenses incurred. This creates an inequity in terms of child support.
In the case of Fichter v. Fichter, the Judge made a decision that not only recognizes the inequity but allows the Court to deviate from the Guidelines when it comes to the matter of adding newly licensed children to already existing insurance policies. While this sounds like a cut and dry precedent, it is really more of a case by case basis. It is still good news for those who foresee struggling with insurance payments after adding on a new driver. The Court is now open to adjusting child support to help out in such cases. However, good cause must be shown and the factors assessed, as is to be expected. You will still require an experienced family law attorney to navigate these waters. Please call our offices to make an appointment.