Your Child’s Special Abilities Might Lead to Higher Child Support Payments

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Is your child gifted or talented? If so, you are likely very proud! What you might not know, however, is that your child’s special abilities might lead to higher child support payments.

In a recent ruling Judge Jones of the Ocean County Superior Court affirmed that under certain circumstances the Court can deviate from New Jersey’s Child Support Guidelines when calculating child support. Among the reasons for deviation allowed by the Guidelines is a child’s giftedness in a particular area.

The case in question was P.S. v. J.S., with P.S. being the father-plaintiff and J.S. being the mother-defendant. They had joint legal custody of their 13-year-old daughter, to whom the judge gave the pseudonym Julie. The mother had primary physical custody, but the father enjoyed liberal parenting time.

Julie had an intense interest in acting, and both parents encouraged these pursuits. However, they did not agree as to who should be responsible for the extra costs incurred because of her interest.

Both J.S. and P.S. had modest incomes although P.S. earned more. P.S. believed that Julie’s acting activities were already taken into consideration when the Court determined that his child support payment would be $113 per week. J.S. maintained that she needed all of that just to provide for their daughter’s basic needs. She asked that the Court raise that amount to cover half of the expenses related to Julie’s acting.

Can a Child’s Special Talent Be a Factor in Child Support?

Judge Jones considered the following factors when making his determination:

  1. In most cases a child’s extra-curricular activities are included when using the New Jersey Child Support Guidelines to calculate the amount of child support.
  1. The Guidelines specifically allow for deviation for various reasons. One of those reasons is “giftedness.”
  1. A child’s giftedness may relate to academics, athletics, technology, or the arts; however, it is not limited to these.
  1. Even if the Court determines that the child is gifted, additional funds to foster that gift must be economically reasonable and the parents’ financial situations should be considered.

Child’s Giftedness May Be Considered

The judge noted that giftedness, especially in the arts, can be very subjective and must be analyzed on a case-by-case basis. In the process of deciding whether or not Julie’s interest in acting rose to the level of giftedness, Judge Jones relied on impressions he had as the result of interviewing Julie on a few occasions. He determined that she was, in fact, gifted, basing his decision on her “inherently extraordinary drive, desire, focus and commitment.”

The Court ordered that unless J.S. and P.S. mutually agreed to a different amount, each parent would pay $250 per year to cover the added expenses related to Julie’s acting activities. The judge noted that he would have ordered that P.S. pay a larger portion, but J.S. had only asked that her ex cover half of the expense; therefore, he divided the amount equally.

Many children participate in several extra-curricular activities. Judge Jones stressed that his ruling should not be seen as a requirement for a parent to pay for just any activity a child likes.

There are many factors that are considered when a calculation of child support is made. A qualified New Jersey Child Support attorney can help you understand your rights and obligations.