When a child's parents decide to end their relationship, either they or the court will need to determine custody and child support. When the court decides on child support, it will use the state's child support guidelines to calculate how much one parent will pay to the other. The divorce lawyers in New Jersey at the Ziegler Law Group, LLC can calculate the amount of support you might expect to pay or receive and negotiate with your child's other parent to try to secure a full child support and child custody agreement that is in your child's best interests.
What Is Child Support?
In New Jersey, child support is a monthly monetary amount that one parent pays to the other to help financially support their child. Family court judges believe both parents should be responsible for financially contributing to the upbringing of their children and use the state's child support guidelines to calculate the amount of support both are responsible for.
When a child's parents get divorced, the child support payments will be determined during the dissolution process. However, unmarried parents can also seek a child support order by establishing the father's paternity of the child and requesting it.
Child support payments will typically continue until the child reaches age 19. However, child support can continue if the child is still in high school or suffers from a mental or physical disability that necessitates continued support.
Requesting Child Support
There are a few different ways to establish a child support order. If the parents agree, they can ask the court to approve their agreed-upon support amount as a part of a divorce proceeding. Parents can also have the court determine their child support obligations in a contested case, and the court will make the calculations and order. The third, and most common way, that parents open child support cases is by completing an online application with the New Jersey Child Support Agency (CSA). The CSA can help establish paternity and issue an order for support to the noncustodial parent. It can also collect support payments through wage garnishments, which will then be distributed to the payee by the state.
Factors Used to Calculate Child Support
Under N.J.S.A. 9:17-53, the court considers the following factors when determining how much support the non-custodial parent should pay to the primary residential parent:
- Each parent's income from all sources
- The total income earned by the parents
- Costs of child care
- Medical insurance costs
- Number of children from other relationships the non-custodial parent is already ordered to pay support for
- The child's living arrangements
- Needs of the child
- Each parent's earning capacity
- The child's need for education, including college
- The age and health of both parents and the child
- Each parent's and child's debts
- Other factors the court believes are relevant
Several of these factors are accounted for in the child support guidelines. The guidelines establish a baseline of support, but the court can deviate from the guidelines when appropriate.
Calculation of Child Support: Income Share Model
New Jersey follows the income share model for calculating child support. In this method, both parents are responsible for paying to support their child. The court will calculate the total cost per month of raising a child by referring to tables that show the marginal cost for adults. The court will then look at the incomes of each parent in proportion to the parents' total combined income and take a percentage. The non-custodial parent's percentage of the total combined income will be used to take a percentage of the cost of raising the child. For example, if the non-custodial parent's income is 60% of the combined income, they will be responsible for 60% of the total child support obligation. If the monthly total cost of raising the child is $1,000, this means the non-custodial parent would pay $600 per month. Childcare expenses and college education costs can be added to the basic child support order.
Determining Each Parent's Fair Income
To determine each parent's fair income, income from nearly any source will be used to calculate child support, including unemployment benefits, overtime compensation, and others. However, certain types of money will not be counted, including welfare benefits or Supplemental Security Income (SSI). If one of the parents isn't working but can, the court will determine the amount the unemployed parent can earn and base the child support calculation on it.
For example, if the non-custodial parent quits their job to try to avoid paying child support, the court will consider their earnings record to determine how much support to order instead of counting their income as zero. Once each parent's fair income has been calculated, the court will then deduct allowable taxes and other deductions. The judge will deduct those amounts and figure out each parent's net income.
Combining the Net Incomes
Once the court has calculated the fair net income of each parent, the incomes will be totaled to calculate the combined net income of the parents. Using this figure, the court will then review the guidelines for the total number of children and the total amount of money. This number is the basic support obligation.
The basic support obligation will then be split according to each parent's percentage of the total combined net income. For example, if one parent earns 70% of the combined net income, they will be responsible for 70% of the basic child support obligation. However, if one parent receives welfare benefits or is disabled, the other parent might be fully responsible for the child support obligation.
Accounting for Parenting Time
When a child spends time with a parent, that parent will have additional expenses. Because of this, the child support calculations make adjustments based on the number of overnights the child spends with the non-custodial parent each year. If the parents have a shared parenting arrangement, this deduction can be significant. A parent who has the child at least 28% of the overnights during the year is considered to have shared parenting. Having more than that will mean that the non-custodial parent will pay less support as the percentage of parenting time increases. This is because when a parent has a child more frequently, the court recognizes that they also have the added expenses of raising the child while they are in their home.
Special Deductions and Add-On Expenses
Parents with additional expenses, including daycare or medical insurance costs, will have them added to the basic child support obligation and divided in the same way. Certain adjustments might be made. For example, if the non-custodial parent is already paying support for a different child under a court order, they will receive an adjustment.
The amount of child support ordered can't leave the parent paying or receiving the money in poverty. The guidelines have built-in tests to keep this from happening. However, the guidelines are meant to ensure the parent who has the child the most will receive enough support to properly care for them.
Arriving at the Final Order
Once the court has gone through all of the above-listed steps, the amount that remains is what the court will typically order. However, the court can deviate from the guideline amount under special circumstances. If the court does deviate from the guidelines, the judge must list the guideline amount in the order and the reason why the deviation was made.
Speak to Our Divorce Lawyers in NJ
If you are getting divorced or are an unmarried parent who wants to establish child support, you should reach out to the experienced attorneys at the Ziegler Law Group, LLC. We can review your case and calculate the guideline child support amount. Call us today to request a consultation at (973) 533-1100.
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