As you may already know, child support is meant to provide children with a wide array of basic and auxiliary needs. The basic needs, which include things like shelter, food, clothing and health care, are the most important since they are necessary to a child's basic survival. However, auxiliary needs such as pets, hobbies, toys and club memberships are undoubtedly important to a child's physical and emotional well-being. Activities, lessons and forms of entertainment that enrich a child's life are typically considered “predictable and recurring” expenses. These expenses are often included in the basic child support amount, but there are exceptional entertainment and extra-curricular needs that are not considered predictable and recurring.
Non-predictable and recurring expenses are classified as “exceptional” expenses, which are normally limited to private school tuitions, transportation costs associated with visitations, and expenses for gifted or disabled children. A parent who is requesting supplemental support towards these expenses must be able to show proof of the associated costs, typically in the form of an itemized budget and receipts. He or she must also prove: 1) the extraordinary activity/ entertainment is in the child's best interest; 2) the parents have the ability to cover the extra expense based on their combined incomes.
The only exception to these rules is when the combined income of the parents is over $187,200 per year. Child support orders for “high income” parents often include additional amounts for extraordinary expenses such as private tutoring, a car for children of driving age, and funding for investment or trust fund accounts. While these expenses may seem a little extravagant, they are still relevant to a child's physical and mental development. However, the courts must consider a list of factors that are relevant to the child and parents' lives prior to adding onto the basic child support obligation.
These factors include, but are not limited to, the age and health of the parents, each parent's earning capacity, each parent's assets and liabilities, and other support obligations that are currently being paid by either parent. Certain factors pertain to the child, especially in the case of college or post-secondary education expenses. In addition to the parents' ability to pay, the courts would need to determine whether the child has the educational capacity to be successful in a post-secondary education program. The child's assets and earning abilities could be a factor as well, since most teenagers work on a part-time basis, or have the ability to obtain some form of employment.
For more information on your child support rights and legal options, please speak with the family law attorneys of Villani & DeLuca, P.C. Your children's needs will evolve, and most likely increase as they become teenagers, which is why it's important to account for all the possible expenses ahead of time. In addition to providing your children with a full range of benefits, working out the most optimal agreement will save you and your ex from returning to court over support modifications in the future.