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 may be able to ask for additional funds as long as those funds help advance the child’s potential.
In 2017, an Ocean County mother took her ex-husband to court because she felt her ex should contribute more towards developing their 13-year old daughter’s passion for acting. She was 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.
Her ex disagreed, and felt that the $113 he was already paying on a weekly basis should cover all expenses.
In his 15-page opinion that set the precedent for future cases, Superior Court Judge Leonard Jones asserted the following:
- NJ Child Support Guidelines typically take extra-curricular activities into account when figuring out child support payments.
- The Guidelines also allow for special circumstances, that includes “giftedness”.
- 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.
- If the court does find that a child meets the standard of “gifted” then the parent receiving support may request additional support to cover those expenses.
Judge Jones went 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. Otherwise a parent may be asked to provide support for an activity their child does not actively participate in.
In the case of the teen actress, 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 aspect of Judge Jones’ 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.
In this case, he noted that her “inherently extraordinary drive, desire, focus and commitment” represented the difference between ‘gifted’ and a passing interest.
As always, child support in New Jersey is determined 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.