Talented child, higher child support obligation?
The rise of social media such as YouTube, Instagram, Facebook, Vine and Tumblr has undoubtedly put a spotlight on talent. Today, more children than ever are getting their “big break” within minutes of parents posting a video of their children belting out a song, performing a dance routine, creating a breakthrough in science or excelling in sports. With a simple click of the “share” button a video can go viral and instantaneously a new star is born. Of course most of these children have devoted countless hours to perfecting their passions and talents through their enrollment in private lessons, extra-curricular activities, schools with a particular focus on the arts, technology, sports and a variety of other disciplines, etc.
The question often raised by non-custodial parents with talented children is, “to what extent am I responsible to contribute to our children’s extra-curricular activities over and above my child support obligation?” In a recent unpublished case, P.S. v. J.S., the parties recognized their daughter’s passion for acting and wanted to support her endeavors. However, the parties were unsure as to whether the non-custodial parent’s child support obligation already covered the costs of their daughter’s acting lessons, or whether an additional contribution over and above the child support obligation was appropriate.
The Court acknowledged that the child support guidelines do in fact take into consideration extra-curricular activity expenses when allocating a child support award. Specifically, these expenses include but are not limited to memberships and admissions to sports, lessons or instructions, recreational or social events, hobbies, toys, playground equipment, photographic equipment, exercise or sports equipment and the like.
However, the Court noted that in circumstances where a child is deemed “gifted” the Court may deviate from the New Jersey child support guidelines and award additional child support in order to facilitate a child’s talent. Specifically, if a Court determines a child to be “gifted” in a particular discipline then it may be equitable for a Court to award an additional reasonable amount of support above the guidelines to help defray the expenses of supporting a child’s talent. The Court is to give deference to each party’s respective ability to provide additional support.
The Court in P.S. v. J.S. provided guidance on the definition of “giftedness” and held that this is connected to “a child’s aptitude, abilities and/or achievements” in one of four areas: academics, athletics, technology, or the arts.” In the case at hand, the Court found after interviewing the parties’ daughter twice over the span of approximately two years that her passion for acting was continuing to grow. The Court found the child to be gifted and that additional child support above the guidelines was warranted to encourage her acting endeavors. Please bear in mind this determination was made without the Court actually ever watching the child perform. Accordingly, P.S. v. J.S. evidences that a finding of a child’s giftedness may not solely rest upon a child’s actual skill set alone but will be based upon a variety of factors.