Can a Non-Custodial Parent be Required to Contribute to Cost of a Child's Car Insurance in New Jersey?
The New Jersey Child Support Guidelines provides a framework to determine the appropriate level of child support given the needs of the child or children and the means of the parents to pay for those needs. The Child Support Guidelines contemplate many of the costs of raising children, including providing for their basic needs, including things like childcare, health insurance, and medical expenses.
As children get older their support needs often change. One such major change occurs when children begin driving. The New Jersey Child Support Guidelines provide for the payment of expenses related to the ownership of a car, but they do not mention car insurance. Under New Jersey law, any person driving a car must be covered by an insurance policy. Since the cost of insuring young drivers is often more expensive than insuring more experienced drivers, the cost of a teenager’s car insurance is often significant. The question becomes, for divorced parents, who pays for the child’s car insurance? Unfortunately the New Jersey Child Support Guidelines do not address this issue.
While the Guidelines do not specifically require the payment of child support for an unemancipated child’s car insurance, a New Jersey judge recently decided a case that sets the precedent for a parent to be required to contribute to the cost of a child’s car insurance policy in New Jersey.Fichter v. Fichter
In the 2015 case of Fichter v. Fichter, a New Jersey mother sought payment from her daughter’s father for part of the daughter’s annual car insurance premium, in addition to the child support the father already paid. In that case, the Fichter’s were divorced in 2011, and shared joint custody of their then 17-year-old son and 13-year-old daughter. The children lived primarily with their mother. The Fichter’s marital settlement agreement included a provision that the parties would share the cost of their son’s car insurance, but did not mention how they would handle their younger daughter’s car insurance when the time came for her to start driving.
In Fichter, Judge Jones was tasked with determining whether the Child Support Guidelines could logically be found to require a parent to contribute to the cost of a supported child’s car insurance. Given that the Guidelines had recently been updated to include the costs of owning or leasing a car for the child, Judge Jones looked at the comments included in the amendment of the guidelines to determine what types of costs of ownership the Legislature intended to include in the updated guideline. There he found language that included “principal cost, finance charges (interest), lease payments, gas and motor oil, insurance, maintenance and repairs." (Child Support Guidelines, Appendix IX-A, Comment 8.) Thus, the judge found that a parent could be required to contribute to the cost of a child’s car insurance.
When determining the amount of child support appropriate in a particular case, it is important to consider current and future expenses that will be incurred on behalf of your children. Please call the Law Office of Peter Van Aulen for a free comprehensive in office consultation to discuss your New Jersey child support case.Sources
Fichter v. Fichter, Superior Court Of New Jersey Ocean County, Chancery Division (2015) New Jersey Child Support Guidelines