Most divorced parents in the state of NJ already know that child support payments can be used to cover the cost of extra-curricular activities. Now, they will be able to ask for additional funds as long as those funds help advance the child’s potential. Any child with high aptitude or proficiency in academics, athletics, technology or the arts may be deemed a ‘gifted child’. Determining what constitutes being ‘gifted’ may vary depending on the area the child excels in.
Last October in Ocean County, the mother of a 13 year old girl with a passion for acting took her ex-husband to court, seeking additional child support. Her ex felt that the $113 he was already paying on a weekly basis should cover all expenses. The girl’s mother was asking him to pay for half the cost of their daughter’s fledgling career, which could include clothing, travel, make-up, dues and coaching.
Superior court Judge Leonard Jones issued a 15-page opinion, in which he explained that while the state’s child support guidelines typically cover such an activity, there are additional guidelines for cases where a ‘gifted child’ has ‘special needs’. In such cases, a divorced parent can request financial support expressly devoted to developing those needs.
Judge Jones goes on to assert that it is not enough to simply prove how gifted a child is. There must also be evidence of the child’s drive, work ethic and maturity. In the case of the teen actress, she must have demonstrated all three because Judge Jones decided in the mother’s favor. As a result, based on their incomes, both parents must now contribute an extra $5 per week towards their daughter’s acting career.
The most significant caveat Judge Jones included in his opinion was in relation to the far more subjective nature of evaluating a child’s giftedness in the arts, as opposed to academics, athletics or technology. As always, child support is considered in terms of the child’s best interest, not an arbitrary financial bonus for the child or the parents. In this case, it cannot even be related to mere after-school activities. This support is reserved as incentive for children committed to a specific pursuit. While Judge Jones’ decision may have set a standard, the expectation is for child support cases involving gifted children to be treated in a fashion as unique as the children themselves.