Gifted Children and Child Support

Raising children is a rewarding endeavor, but any parent can tell you that it is also expensive.  When the parents live together, they combine resources to help make sure that the child’s needs are met.  After a divorce or separation, the court will enter an order for child support.  In New Jersey, there is a specific calculation used to figure out how much support should be paid.  A variety of factors are taken into account, including both parents’ incomes.  Child support is designed to cover specific costs, such as housing, food, clothing, and entertainment.  Entertainment includes extracurricular costs for the activities the custodial parent chooses to enroll the child in.  When a child is gifted, however, there may be more costs associated with those extracurricular activities. 

Although the costs of extracurricular activities are generally included in what child support is supposed to cover, the court can deviate from the child support guidelines to take extra costs into account.  The New Jersey guidelines provide that some large or variable expenditures associated with the child may not be appropriate to include in a regular support award.  This means that in some situations, where there are recurring costs for a child’s activities, a court can award extra support to help cover these funds.  In the context of having a gifted child, this means that the court can determine that the regular support award is not sufficient to help with the extra costs associated with assisting the child’s needs and order that the non-custodial parent needs to provide additional financial support. 

The next logical question is how gifted does a child have to be before a court will order additional funds?  Determining “giftedness” can be challenging for a judge, as it is not practical for a judge to make the subjective determination as to whether a child really is a gifted actor, artist, or sports player.  One judge in New Jersey noted that giftedness can be measured not only by a child’s natural talent, but also by his or her desire to work hard to attain a specific goal.  In addition, a non-custodial parent’s requirement to financially contribute to the continuing training of a gifted child needs to be weighed against that parent’s ability to continue to help defray these expenses.

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If you have questions about how child support is determined, contact us today.  We can talk with you about the law in New Jersey and how a court may rule in your case.

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