How is my Child Support Obligation Calculated in New Jersey?

PA281186 morguefile quicksandalaIf you and your children’s other parent are not living together, you will likely find yourself having to address  the issue of child support.

In the State of New Jersey, while many things in life may not be certain, it is fairly well established under New Jersey Law that both parents have a duty of support related to their children who have not been emancipated.  This applies regardless of the parents’ living situation or whether or not they are married. In general, one parent is the custodial parent (under the current definitions, this person is referred to as the “Parent of Primary Residence” (the “P.P.R.”), or payee, and the other is the non-custodial parent (currently referred to as the “Parent of Alternate Residence” (the “P.A.R.”)  or payor.

 

When determining a child support order, a New Jersey court is required to consider various factors.  These factors include: the needs of the child, the standard of living and economic circumstances of each parent, any and all sources of income and each parent’s assets, the earning capacity of each parent, the need and capacity of the child for education, the age and health of the child as well as each parent, the income, assets, and earning ability of the child, the responsibility of each parent for the court-ordered support of others, the reasonable debts and liabilities of each child and parent, and any other factors the court may deem relevant. The good news, when it comes to the issues of child support, as compared to the issue of alimony )see our earlier blog posts on this topic), child support IS, in the vast majority of cases, calculated by the use of the New Jersey Child Support Guidelines (the “Guidelines”).

WHAT ARE THE NEW JERSEY CHILD SUPPORT GUIDELINES?

The Guidelines are a set of mathematical formulas that, once applied to the raw data, will generate the same support award amount, regardless of who or where the calculation is made.  It’s that fixed and certain, except of course, if you and the other parent have a combined NET income between the two of you that exceeds $3600 per week! (this equals $187,200 per year of combined NET income of the two parents, on an annual basis).   IF you find yourselves in this situation, the Guidelines will only apply up to the maximum amount set forth, for the $3600/week amount.  Thereafter, the Guidelines are abundantly clear – you do NOT simply extrapolate the maximum guidelines amount by the amount which exceeds this ceiling of $187,200/yr.  Instead, the Guidelines and the case lase in New Jersey that has resulted from disputes involving such situations, is well settled.  A judge is REQUIRED to hold a hearing (known as a “plenary hearing”) where witnesses, documentation, and facts are to be introduced, to allow the judge to determine how much, if any, the child support should be increased above the maximum amount under the Guidelines.  This inquiry by the judge is to ascertain what, IF ANY, needs of the child or children would NOT be met if the support order was fixed at the maximum amount up to which the Guidelines were capped.  As you can well imagine, the amount, if any, by which the support should be increased is therefore extremely fact sensitive.  The attorneys at Goldstein Law Group have handled many cases in which the parties combined net incomes far exceed the Guidelines maximum.  We have conducted many trails in the Superior Court Family Part to address the child support award that may apply in such high income cases.   Selecting a knowledgeable attorney that has experience is this specific area is critically important.

For many litigants, the income will fall within the Guidelines maximum.   But, aside from the mere calculation of the support amount, you should be aware of other factors that affect whether or not child support is even applicable.

In general, a child is an individual who has not yet reached the age of majority in New Jersey.  Despite this, a court may not terminate a child support order based solely on the age of a couple’s child if the supported child suffers from a serious mental or physical disability or incapacity that results in financial dependence on his or her parents.  In such situations, a child support order will continue until the disability ends or the child no longer relies on his or her parents for income and support.  In addition, a disabled child’s eligibility to receive public assistance and other services may affect the financial obligations of a supporting parent.  It is important to note that child abuse does not constitute “severe mental or physical incapacity” under the law.

WHAT IS EMANCIPATION?   WHAT HAPPENS TO MY CHILD SUPPORT IF MY CHILD IS EMANCIPATED?

Even if a child HAS attained his or her 18th birthday (the age of majority in New Jersey), a child is not yet considered “emancipated” if the child has not yet graduated high school, or if the the child has graduated high school, the child continues his or her education by enrolling and attending college or trade school on a full time, continuous basis.  This is an area in which there is a lot of disagreement among parents.  It is often the case that you find yourself having to file a motion to terminate your child support obligation to declare your child emancipated or, if you are the recipient of the support, you may find yourself having to defend such a motion where the payor parent is seeking to stop the child support.  If you find yourself in one of these situations, please call to speak to one of the many experienced attorneys at our firm that handles these fairly common applications.  There are subtle aspects to the law which applies to these types of emancipation matters that you may not be familiar with and, as a result, you suffer the incorrect result.

A New Jersey court may not establish a child support order if a comparable pleading is filed in another state unless jurisdiction is timely challenged in the other state and New Jersey is the child’s home state.  Similarly, a parent who seeks to challenge a New Jersey court’s child support order may only do so if a timely challenge is made and the foreign state is the home state of the child being supported.

In addition to a typical child support order, a New Jersey court is authorized to implement a temporary child support order when the payer has acknowledged parentage in writing or other legal evidence exists to indicate parentage.  In the State of New Jersey, a court is not required to acknowledge a child support order that was issued in another state unless no other legal support order has been issued and the parent seeking support resides in another state or the enforcement agency seeking a support order is outside New Jersey.

For skillful representation and helpful answers to your child support questions, contact the New Jersey family law attorneys at Goldstein Law Group.  To request a confidential consultation, you may contact us online or give our dedicated attorneys a call today at 732-967-6777.

More Blog Posts:

New Jersey Father’s Child Support Obligations Upheld Despite His Incarceration, April 2, 2015, New Jersey Divorce Lawyers Blog