Parents are often surprised at how quickly their children grow up. Before you know it, your 13-year-old child is now 17, and suddenly parents need to start thinking about and accounting for the expense of a car, and of course, car insurance.
If those parents are divorced, or have dissolved a legal relationship, chances are there will be some kind of child support agreement in place. However, if your child support agreement was drafted before your child reached driving age, it most likely will not include terms for financial support related to the expenses of your child’s car, or car insurance policy. Considering the fact that by law, all New Jersey drivers must carry a minimum level of coverage, and also that insurance companies are wary of younger, less experienced drivers, the cost of insuring a new driver can easily exceed $1,000 per year.
The question then becomes “Can I modify my child support agreement to include support for my child’s car insurance and automobile expenses?”. Lets take a look.
New Jersey’s Child Support Guidelines and Support for Automobile Expenses
Child Support Attorneys Bergen County, NJ
New Jersey’s Child Support Guidelines are designed to help standardize child support settlements during divorce and legal relationship dissolutions across the state. These guidelines include language that expressly include “all costs involved with owning or leasing an automobile”. However, until the decision reached in Fichter v Fichter, it was unclear whether or not these expenses should be included when drafting initial child support agreements even if the child or children in question are not of legal driving age.
In the 2015 case of Fichter v Fichter, the parents had two children at the time of their divorce, aged 17 and 13. Their 17-year-old’s car insurance premiums were included as part of the final child support calculations, but the parents made no plan for their 13-year-old’s future car insurance expenses. When this child reached the driving age of 17, the custodial parent petitioned the courts to increase the amount of support the non-custodial parent was contributing in order to help cover this new expense.
When examining this case, the court noted that while a literal reading of the Child Support Guidelines would suggest that both current and future vehicle costs could be included in the initial child support agreement itself, this interpretation would lead to nonsensical situations wherein parents of younger children would be receiving/paying support for expenses which didn’t exist until such time that the child reached legal driving age. However, the court also found that increasing child support payments when and if the child began to drive is in the best interests of that child, a fact which courts consider paramount above all others. Furthermore, car insurance expenses are different from other extraneous expenses such as sporting gear in the sense that car insurance is legally required for every New Jersey driver to have. For these reasons, the court ruled that the supporting parent’s child support obligations should be increased in order to cover half of the child’s car insurance costs.
Car Insurance and My Child Support Settlement in Bergen County
So while the Fichter v Fichter court found that parents should not be expected to pay car insurance costs for children who are not yet of a driving age, parents can still include provisions in their initial child support agreement which account for this expense when the child does become of age. By including terms for this expense in your initial Bergen County child support settlement, you will not have to seek a child support modification down the road when your child reaches legal driving age.
If, however, your child support agreement did not account for this future expense, and your child is now of or reaching the legal driving age, you may wish to file a motion for a child support modification to help you account for these new expenses. As the Fichter court found that car insurance is a mandatory expense, and that having this coverage is also in the best interests of driving-age children, along with the help of an experienced Bergen County child support modification attorney, you can obtain increased financial support for your child’s car and car insurance expenses through a child support modification petition.
Contact Our Ridgewood Child Support Attorneys Today
At The Law Office of Townsend, Tomaio & Newmark, our attorneys have extensive experience helping clients across Ridgewood, Fort Lee, Hackensack, and the greater Bergen County area to successfully resolve their divorce, including settling the key issues of division of marital assets and debt, child support, child custody, and alimony.
By practicing exclusively divorce and family law, our firm can focus on the issues most important to you, and providing you with the knowledgable, effective, and compassionate legal service that you need and deserve in matters so critical to your financial, legal, and parental future.
Whether you are going through a divorce and need to secure a child support settlement which accounts for future motor vehicle expenses, or need to modify your existing child support agreement, our firm is ready to help you. To schedule a free and confidential consultation with our family law team today, please contact us online, or through our Hackensack, NJ office at (201) 397-1750.