When drafting a child support agreement, many parents don’t take into account the fact that their children will grow up, and that their needs and expenses will change accordingly. One particularly important aspect of this is when a child reaches the age of 17, the legal driving age in New Jersey. Most children upon reaching this age will need financial support for potentially buying, maintaining, and insuring an automobile.
Due to the high costs associated with cars and New Jersey car insurance policies, especially for young adults, many of our Morris County clients ask us “Does my child support agreement include support for expenses related to my child’s purchase, maintenance, and insurance of a car?”
The answer is that it should, but it might not; and here’s what you need to know:
Child Support and Automobile Expenses, Morris County Child Support Attorneys
All child support agreements made in New Jersey are done so based on the Child Support Guidelines. These guidelines help to standardize what parents can expect to pay, or receive, when it comes to their divorce’s child support settlement. These child support guidelines include language which directly addresses car expenses and financial support, stating that child support should include “all costs involved with owning or leasing an automobile”.
Furthermore, thanks to the decision reached in the 2015 case of Fichter v Fichter, we now know that support for these expenses does not begin until such time that the child reaches driving age, and actually requires financial support for their car, its maintenance, or adding them to an insurance policy. In Fichter v Fichter, the divorced parents included child support for their 17-year-old’s car expenses as part of their divorce settlement agreement, but made no mention of support for their 13-year-old’s future expenses. When this child turned 17, the custodial parent was forced to petition the courts in order to modify the existing child support order to include support for this new expense.
When examining this case, the Fichter court noted that if read literally, the Child Support Guidelines suggest that a child’s future automobile expenses could be included in the initial child support payments. However, they found that this interpretation would lead to nonsensical situations where parents were paying child support for expenses which didn’t yet exist. On the other hand, the Fichter court found that increasing child support payments at such time that the child actually required this financial support would be in the best interests of that child, the most important factor in any court decision regarding children. With these factors in mind, the court ruled in favor of the custodial parent, modifying their child support agreement to include support for the younger child’s newly acquired automobile expenses.
What This Means for Your Child Support Agreement in Morris County
The Fichter v Fichter decision reaffirmed the rights of custodial parents to petition for a child support modification at such time that their child requires financial support for expenses associated with cars, and securing car insurance coverage. If you are a custodial parent in need of increased financial support for your child’s automobile expenses, than along with the help of an experienced Chester child support attorney, you can most likely secure this increase in financial support.
However, child support modifications can be costly, time-consuming affairs, so it is much more beneficial to include terms in your initial child support agreement which address this issue. By planning for the future expenses of your child in your divorce’s child support agreement, you can avoid having to go to court to secure this support down the road. While non-custodial parents will not be expected to pay for these expenses before your child reaches driving age, once they do, your child support agreement can provision for the changing financial needs of your child.
Contact Our Chester Child Support Attorneys Today
At The Law Office of Laufer, Dalena, Cadicina, Jensen & Bradley, our attorneys have extensive experience helping clients across Chester, Chatham, Mendham, Madison, Morristown, and the greater Morris County area to plan and account for their future in their divorce settlement agreement.
Whether you are deciding the key issues of marital asset and debt division, child support, child custody, or alimony, our firm is ready to provide you with the knowledgeable, effective, and compassionate legal service that you deserve in such critical matters which have the potential to affect your financial, legal, and parental future for years to come. Our firm features many attorneys regularly nominated to the Super Lawyers list as it relates to family law, signifying peer and industry recognition for our high level of service and professional achievements. For a complete list of our attorneys and their years of inclusion to Super Lawyers, please view the section below.
To speak with our firm today in a free and confidential consultation regarding your divorce, your child support agreement, planning for the future expenses of your child, or modifying an existing child support order, please contact us online, or through our Morristown, NJ office at (973) 975-4043..