The primary purpose of child support is to provide children with basic needs such as housing, food, clothing and health care. However, a child's basic needs is somewhat dependent on the lifestyle that he or she enjoyed while the parents were still together. For example, a child with affluent parents is used to a wide variety of upper class benefits such as private school, designer clothes and exotic vacations. Children from lower income brackets are not as privileged, but many of them are still provided with “extras” such as toys, music lessons, sports equipment and birthday parties. While such expenses are not necessary to a child's survival, the courts recognize that they do contribute significantly to a child's physical and mental development.
A child's lifestyle during the parent's marriage is a critical to determining the amount of support, but children are not guaranteed the exact the same standard of living once the parents are divorced The children are legally entitled to an appropriate standard of living that can be reasonably provided by the parents, but expenses like nannies, housekeepers, luxury automobiles and travel by private jet may be deemed excessive. In addition, such expenses could result in exorbitant support amounts that go towards the upkeep of the spouse, as well as the children. This is a common issue in cases where the receiving spouse is a homemaker, or only works part-time. These spouses are typically awarded alimony, so an incredibly high child support amount may be seen as one spouse being forced to provide the other with a lifestyle of his or her choice.
Another issue that must be examined is whether the paying spouse is being forced to provide the child with a lifestyle of the receiving parent's choice. Let's take, for example, a situation in which the receiving spouse demands supplemental support for a live-in nanny. The paying spouse argues that it's an unnecessary expense, since the child is attending school on a full-time basis. Even if the child had always been cared for by a nanny, the child now spends the majority of the day at school, after which he or she can be bussed to a nearby after school program. This is where the courts would need to weigh the best interests of the child against what is reasonable for a parent to provide. As previously mentioned, it's about providing an appropriate, not equal, standard of living. If the after school program is in a good location with a highly reputable staff, the judge may agree that it's an appropriate, though not equal, substitute for a full-time nanny.
For more information on New Jersey's child support guidelines, please speak with the experienced family law attorneys of Villani & DeLuca, P.C. Our attorneys have extensive trial experience with child support modifications, post-secondary education expenses, and all other petitions pertaining to child support. They will be happy to advise you of all your available legal options during a free initial consultation.