Child's Auto Insurance Premium as Child Support Add-On
The Fichter case, published in February, 2016, determined that payment of the additional premium when a child starts driving is now an add-on to the basic child support obligation. (Fichter v. Fichter, 132 A.3d 441, NJ: Superior Court, Chancery Div. 2015).
Ms. Fichter brought an action against Mr. Fichter seeking his contribution to the increased portion of her auto insurance attributable to their daughter’s being placed on Ms. Fichter’s auto insurance policy. This included the daughter’s use of a family car already owned by Ms. Fichter and would, primarily, be used by the daughter. Prior to this, the same vehicle was used by the parties’ now emancipated son.
The Fichter’s divorce settlement specifically stated that the parties would share the cost of auto insurance for their son, but did not address auto insurance for their daughter when she came of age to get her license several years later.
Mr. Fichter has neither agreed nor disagreed with payment toward the insurance, and did not even bother to respond to Ms. Fichter’s court action. The Court did not grant Mrs. Fichter relief by default. Instead, Judge Jones went through an extensive analysis of the state of the law, the principles on which he was relying and how he reached the final determination in his nearly 20 page decision: Auto insurance premium attributable to the child for driving a family vehicle must be contributed to by the parents, and such contribution could continue past the age of 18 under certain circumstances.
Judge Jones took this opportunity to close the gap he saw in the state of the law. Before this, the insurance issue was only considered concerning insurance for a vehicle of the child’s own. The committee that looks into such things, looked at the precise issue presented by Fichter, but did not reach a conclusion on how to address this situation vis a vis child support. The court acknowledges the committee’s failure to decide on this issue. In spite of no statutory determination, here, the court reached its own conclusion by holding that the auto insurance premium for the child on a family insurance policy would be contributed to by both parents. The court further held that such payment could continue after the child reached the age of 18, after child support was no longer being paid for the child. Judge Jones actually spoke to the conversation the parents should have with their daughter about her own contribution, after 18, to teach her a life lesson.
Please note that this is not an Appellate or Supreme Court decision. Rather, it is a trial court decision rendered by Justice L.R. Jones of the New Jersey Superior Court of Ocean County, Chancery Division, Family Part. This means that this is not precedent for the entire state of New Jersey, but that does not mean that it will not be relied upon by upon by other counties. The case has not been appealed, though this may well become an issue in many cases across the state, in view of this decision.
If you need to discuss a court action for auto insurance premiums in the face of child support obligations, call the Law Offices of Peter Van Aulen for a consultation at 201-845-7400.