Today's sunny and unseasonably-warm weather is a reminder that summer is just around the corner.
For carefree kids, summertime represents a break from borish homework and an unrivaled opportunity to have fun with their friends. For working parents, the summer season presents a large (and expensive) logistical problem: what to do with the children during business hours? The answer for many families is enrollment in a “summer camp.” Camps come in many different forms, but they're almost always a substantial expense. As such, the question of “who” will pay for camp can be a contentious issue for divorced or unmarried parents. Most family law disputes are facts-driven, so it's very important to consult a New Jersey famil law attorney if you're unsure as to your rights. Here are some general principles to keep in mind… If you are divorced and your ex-spouse disagrees with your camp decision (for or against), the ultimate outcome will likely be governed by your Property Settlement Agreement (PSA). Filing a motion for enforcement may be the appropriate next step if your spouse is refusing to abide by the PSA.
If you and your child's other parent were never married, or your PSA does not address summer camp expenses, then the Court will probably need to determine whether summer camp is considered normative “child care” or a discretionary expense. The New Jersey Child Support Guidelines (Appendix IX-A) discusses camp and other large expenses as possible considerations in determining a final child support award. Generally speaking, summer camp is a “necessary” expense if it is taking the place of a necessary child care arrangement due to the custodial parent's work or school schedule. For example, if your children attend one particular day care after school hours until 5:30 p.m. every week day from September through May, but that option isn't available June through August, then the Court is likely to consider a relatively reasonably priced summer camp a “necessary” expenditure. And what is considered unnecessary? Again, these matters are always facts sensitive. For example, the Court is unlikely to order an otherwise not-obligated parent to contribute towards camp if the child is old enough to go without child care during the hot and hazy summer months or, alternatively, the non-custodial parent is willing and able to personally assume the child care function when the custodial spouse is at work or in class. You should also think twice before signing up your child for camp without proper notice to the non-custodial parent. A 2009 unpublished decision from the New Jersey Appellate Division (and therefore not binding on other courts), Zenn v. Zenn, considered a dispute between two divorced parents and camp expenses. The appellate court ruled that the trial court had incorrectly compelled the father to contribute towards camp expenses without prior notice from the mother. As you can see, allotting child camp expenses can be a complicated area of family law practice. Furthermore, the above referenced points are merely the “tip of the iceberg” where child support and camp expenses are concerned. Don't take a chance or proceed with insufficient knowledge when your children and resources are on the line. If you or a loved one has questions regarding child support, day care or summer camp obligations, click here to contact the family law lawyers at DeMichele & DeMichele today. You can also reach us at (856) 546-1350 to schedule a confidential consultation with one of our attorneys.