Clients often ask if the cost of a child’s car is considered child support in New Jersey. No, the expenses for the purchase of a child’s car and any associated costs are NOT considered to be part of basic child support under the NJ Child Support Guidelines.
Appendix IX-A of the Guidelines provides, in part, “Transportation - All costs involved with owning or leasing an automobile including monthly installments toward principal cost, finance charges (interest), lease payments, gas and motor oil, insurance, maintenance and repairs. Also, included are other costs related to transportation such as public transit, parking fees, license and registration fees, towing, tolls, and automobile service clubs. The net outlay (purchase price minus the trade-in value) for a vehicle purchase is not included. Transportation also does not include expenses associated with a motor vehicle purchased or leased for the intended primary use of a child subject to the support order.”
The case of Fichter v. Fichter addresses whether car insurance for a minor child should be included in the child support payment, or if there should be a separate obligation.
In 2013, the State of New Jersey amended the Child Support Guidelines to include additional provisions relating to the cost of motor vehicle insurance. These amendments, however, have raised further questions and debate as to when a parent who is already paying guideline-level child support is also obligated to contribute to the additional cost of an unemancipated teenage child's car insurance.
Judge Jones concluded that the family court, in its reasonable discretion, may increase or otherwise adjust guideline-level child support in a particular case to account for the additional cost of car insurance for a newly licensed teenage driver.
The Fichter decision is intended to serve as guidance for a court addressing this issue. The court must do so by prioritizing equity, logic, and substance over form, while applying concepts of reason, fairness, and common sense in a manner that most consistently furthers the best interests of the child at issue, i.e., a new teenage driver, in a given case.
Regardless of whether the cost of coverage for a new teenage driver is technically considered as included or excluded under the guidelines, the end result may as a matter of financial equity be exactly the same in terms of additional parental contribution toward this very important expenditure. In addressing the matter of financial support, our courts have always looked beyond a parent's claims of limited resources and economic opportunity and have gone far to compel a parent to do what in equity and good conscience should be done for the child.
Diana Fredericks, Esq., is a partner with Gebhardt & Kiefer, PC and devotes her practice solely to family law matters. She is a Certified Matrimonial Law Attorney and was named to the NJ Super Lawyers Rising Stars list in the practice of family law by Thomson Reuters in 2015, 2016, 2017, 2018, and 2019, and to the New Leaders of the Bar list by the New Jersey Law Journal in 2015. Contact Ms. Fredericks for a consultation at 908-735-5161 or via email.
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