Issues pertaining to child support are plentiful in New Jersey. The expenses of a child vary and never stay constant, but what happens when a child reaches 17 and gets their driver's license? Should both parents bear the cost of car insurance associated with their child's car?
In Ocean County, this issue came before the Honorable L.R. Jones, J.S.C. Here, the parties divorced in 2011. They had a son who was 17 and a daughter who was 13. The children lived primarily with their mother, but both parents shared joint legal custody. Per the parties' marital settlement agreement (MSA), the father was to pay $303 per week in support to the mother for both children. Included in the MSA was a provision stating that the father was to share the cost of their son's car insurance, but the MSA did not provide a provision for the daughter's car insurance when she was to become of age to drive. Eventually their son became emancipated and the child support payments dropped to $213 per week. Now, the parties' daughter is old enough to hit the road on her own, and the mother is seeking the court to order the father to share the cost of the daughter's car insurance.
The New Jersey Child Support Guidelines were amended in 2013. In these amendments contained new language addressing costs for when children become new drivers. These amendments are unclear whether insurance counts as an "add on" cost, or if the cost is built into the guidelines. Additionally, the term "expenses" as it relates to costs associating with a child's car remains ambiguous. Judge Jones aptly points out that while these terms can be debated, the Guidelines are ultimately "subject to deviation as a matter of fairness."
So, is it fair to order a parent to share the cost of their child's car insurance? Judge Jones says in this case it is. Here, the car was a used 10-year-old vehicle, and it was in the child's best interests to have the vehicle. To Judge Jones, the cost of insurance was well worth the extra cost to both parents. It should be noted that this rule is not firm, and in a case with different circumstances, such as a much more expensive car, the answer could definitely be different.