During the pandemic, work-related childcare continues to be an issue. With the uncertainty over whether daycare or summer camp or school will be open, drastic changes to a parent’s work schedule may occur so that a parent can balance work and family while the children remain at home. Inevitably, the cost of work-related childcare will change and parents will need to examine how these costs are shared. Many parents have asked whether these costs are included in the child support award and what is considered “work-related childcare”.
Let’s first address the child support award. In general, child support is calculated using the New Jersey Child Support Guidelines. The child support award includes the child’s share of expenses for housing, food, clothing, transportation, entertainment, unreimbursed healthcare up to and including $250 per child per year, and miscellaneous items. New Jersey Rules of Court, Appendix IX-A. The cost of work-related childcare may be added to the guidelines worksheet and allocated between the parents in proportion to their percentage of the total combined parental income but it is not automatically included in the child support calculations. The parents who have included the cost in the guidelines might need to reexamine the child support amount if the work-related care cost is not being incurred or has been increased or decreased. Parents who have been paying for work-related child care directly to the provider, will automatically pay more or less depending upon what the new work-related child care is. In addition, either parent’s ability to use a Dependent Care Flexible Spending Account, or get a tax benefit from payment of child care costs, can affect the ratio of how the expense gets divided.
Then, consider the question of what types of expenses qualify as “work-related” childcare. In general, work-related childcare may include before and after-school care, private babysitting costs incurred during work hours, care provided during the summer such as day camp or other types of paid and supervised summer activities. The question becomes harder to address when family members, like grandparents or older siblings, pitch in to help care for young children, or when an employer subsidizes child care, as some companies have offered during the COVID-19 crisis.
If you have questions regarding child support and the cost of caring for your children while you or your co-parent are working, contact the experienced family law attorneys at Cohn Lifland Pearlman Herrmann & Knopf, LLP. We can help you understand your rights and obligations. We remain available to provide legal services to our community during this difficult time.