Do I Have To Pay Towards My Child’s Extracurricular Activities?
Yes if you agree to do so in your divorce settlement. In other words, if you advised your attorney that you agree to do so, this agreement shall included in your divorce decree (i.e., Settlement Agreement) that is drafted by one of the lawyers in the case. As New Jersey law highly promotes fair settlements between divorcing spouses, once you agree to make certain payments, you are legally obligated to do so absent a post-judgment motion by your attorney to a New Jersey Family Court.
In Weinrib v. Brothers, the parties were married in 1999. The parties had one child born of the marriage, a son, B.B. After eleven years of marriage, the parties divorced in 2010. On July 6, 2010, the parties agreed to share custody and parenting time of B.B. in a consent judgment. The parties agreed that Ms. Weinrib would be the parent of primary residence, meaning B.B. would mainly live with her, and Mr. Brothers would be the parent of alternate residence. The parties also agreed to a parenting time schedule in the consent judgment.
An amended dual final judgment of divorce (“ADFJOD”) was entered by the Superior Court of New Jersey, Family Part, on July 15, 2010. The ADFJOD instructed each party to pay fifty percent of B.B.’s unreimbursed medical costs. The parties were also instructed to each pay fifty percent of B.B.’s daycare costs; however, the ADFJOD did not address B.B.’s upcoming educational and extracurricular costs. Ms. Weinrib filed an emergent application with the court requesting temporary custody of B.B. on August 24, 2015. The application was based on B.B.’s account of Mr. Brothers’ inappropriate conduct. In an order issued the same day, the court granted Ms. Weinrib temporary sole residential custody of B.B. The order also provisionally suspended Mr. Brother’s parenting time. On September 8, 2015, Mr. Brothers filed an emergent application with the court. Mr. Brothers’ application sought to restore his parenting time with B.B., make up parenting time that he missed during the suspension, to terminate the restraints, and attorney’s fees.
On September 16, 2015, the court dismissed the restraints following a hearing. The court granted Mr. Brothers two additional days of parenting time, but did not issue a decision regarding attorney’s fees or the request to make up parenting time, and converted the remaining issues to a motion. The court also did not discuss if the temporary restraints were unnecessary or unjustified. On October 5, 2015, Ms. Weinrib filed a motion with the court seeking to compel the parties to pay fifty percent of B.B.’s unreimbursed medical costs in accordance with the consent judgment. Ms. Weinrib also asked that the court require Mr. Brothers to contribute fifty percent of B.B.’s upcoming educational and extracurricular activities costs. Mr. Brothers recognized and admitted that he was responsible for fifty percent of B.B.’s unreimbursed medical costs. Mr. Brothers then filed a cross-motion requesting extra parenting time, make up parenting time, and attorney’s fees.
The court granted Ms. Weinrib’s motion and denied Mr. Brothers’ cross-motion on November 5, 2015 in an order and written statement of reasons. The court found that Ms. Weinrib and Mr. Brothers agreed to a consent judgment, which dictated parenting time. The court also found that Mr. Brothers did not miss parenting time as a consequence of Ms. Weinrib’s wrongful prohibiting of parenting time, but a court order suspending parenting time. Furthermore, the court did not find that Ms. Weinrib’s emergent temporary custody application was made in bad faith or was without merit. Lastly, the court did not address Ms. Weinrib’s request to compel Mr. Brothers to contribute fifty percent of costs for B.B.’s upcoming educational and extracurricular activities.
On appeal, Mr. Brothers argued that the Family Part was wrong to require that he pay fifty percent of B.B.’s unreimbursed medical costs and future educational and extracurricular activities. Mr. Brothers also argued that the court was wrong to deny his application for make up parenting time and attorney’s fees. The New Jersey Appellate Division noted that it refers to the factual findings of the lower court, which are supported by significant and credible evidence. The Appellate Division also stated that reversal of a court decision is only justified when a mistake was made due to unreliable and irrelevant evidence that upset the fairness of justice.
The Appellate Division affirmed the decision of the lower court in part, finding that it was correct to require Mr. Brothers pay fifty percent of B.B.’s unreimbursed medical costs. The Appellate Division also found that the Family Part was correct to deny make up parenting time and attorney’s fees. The court reasoned that the parties entered into a consent judgment, which is both a judgment and a contract, similar to a settlement agreement. Modification of the consent judgment could be made upon a demonstration of changed circumstances. The Appellate Division found that the consent judgment required Mr. Brothers to pay fifty percent of B.B.’s unreimbursed medical costs, and that Mr. Brothers never requested to modify the consent judgment. Furthermore, Mr. Brothers acknowledged his obligation to pay. The Appellate Division noted that Mr. Brothers did not show a change in circumstance to modify the consent judgment; therefore, the court affirmed the decision of the Family Part, and held that Mr. Brothers is obligated to pay fifty percent of B.B.’s unreimbursed medical costs.
The Appellate Division also affirmed the lower court’s denial of Mr. Brothers’ demand for attorney’s fees and make up parenting time. The court stated that the allocation of attorney’s fees in family cases is up to the court’s discretion, and the court will not reverse the lower court’s decision without a showing of abuse of discretion. Also, the Appellate Division agreed with the Family Part’s written statement of reasons regarding make up parenting time, and found that the lower court was correct to deny Mr. Brothers make up parenting time. The Appellate Division agreed with the denial because the lower court already gave Mr. Brothers two additional parenting time days when it removed the restraints.
Lastly, the Appellate Division disagreed with the lower court’s decision requiring Mr. Brothers to pay fifty percent of B.B.’s upcoming educational and extracurricular activities. The court stated that the lower court must make and communicate particular findings of fact and decisions of law. The Appellate Division found that the ADFJOD does not address the issue of B.B.’s future educational and extracurricular costs, and that the lower court’s decision did not clearly indicate factual findings on the issue; therefore, the decision must be reversed. The Appellate Division ultimately affirmed the lower court’s decision in part, reversed in part, and sent the case back to the lower court to determine the issue of B.B.’s future costs.
If you are facing issues regarding the payment of certain expenses regarding your child, please contact our office today.