Child support is meant to cover a wide array of needs that go beyond food, shelter and clothing. Former spouses, however, are not always be able to agree on whether certain items are “needs” or “wants”. There may also be disagreements over the reasonability of paying additional support, especially for things that, perhaps, the child should pay for based on his age and ability. Such disagreements are a frequent source of child support motions brought before the New Jersey family courts. While each request must be decided on a case-by-case basis, there is a general consensus that parents must contribute towards car insurance for unemancipated teenage drivers.
New Jersey Child Support Guidelines do not specify auto insurance as an added expense, but in 2013, language was added to address the issue of providing children with their own car. Hence, it would make sense to hold parents accountable for car insurance expenses as a matter of fairness, common sense and the child's best interests. The best interests standard -- the cornerstone of any child-related court motion -- is a rather subjective concept, but just about anyone would agree that it's not in a young driver''s best interest to drive without auto insurance. Young drivers are more likely to cause, or be involved in an auto accident, so it's a matter of public safety to have them insured. Furthermore, being caught driving without insurance will result in prohibitive surcharges and increased insurance rates, which can be incredibly damaging to a young driver's future.
There's also the issue of fairness in regards to the custodial parent. Keep in mind that New Jersey comes in No. 3 for the highest car insurance rates in the nation. By law, custodial parents are required to include their children in their policy if they are newly licensed teenagers. Without the non-custodial parent's help, custodial parents are often left to foot the entire cost of insuring their children. Considering that individual rates are as high as $2,400 per year in certain parts of New Jersey, it would unreasonable to expect the average custodial parent to bear this expense on his or her own. Of course, the idea of what is reasonable applies to the paying parent, as well. Judges must carefully consider whether the added expense is reasonable based on the paying parent's current circumstances.
As your children evolve into teeangers and yourg adults, car insurance is just one of many expenses that can be added onto a standard child support payment. Additional clothing, extra-curricular fees and college tuition are just a few of the other expenses that you may need to cover until your children are fully independent. If at all possible, you should work out arrangements for future expenses ahead of time, but it's not always possible to anticipate every expense, or unexpected circumstances within you, your ex, or your children's lives. For more information on your child support rights and legal options, please speak with the family law attorneys of Villani & DeLuca, P.C.