NJ child support guide
Principal attorney Alexander Carlin is licensed to practice law in both New Jersey and New York. Child support is a complex and specialized legal topic, and is especially complicated in New Jersey. Attorneys who represent parents either at a mediation or in court must not only know the law but have to know how different judges are likely to apply the law.
Fortunately Mr. Carlin has years of experience in both settling and trying child support cases, including the especially difficult cases, such as interstate child support and child support involving high net worth clients and families. These issues can come up during the divorce, or years later.
What is child support and who has to pay?
Child support in New Jersey is designed as a way that children can continue to live, after divorce or separation, at the same standard or living comparable to their parents. This is somewhat of an over simplification, but it does show the legal intent behind the law.
Although both parents have a legal obligation to support their children, as a practical matter child support is generally paid to the parent who has primary physical custody of the child or children. Primary physical custody can be pursuant to a court order, or may be determined by which parent has the child or children the majority of the time, or which parent has enrolled the child or children in school.
Once there has been an initial New Jersey child support order , if the child or children move to another state, the NJ rules as to the age of emancipation will usually remain controlling.
In New Jersey parents are required to support their children until they are emancipated. Children will generally be considered to be emancipated for child support purposes when they turn 19, but in certain situations, such as the children being in college, child support can be extended up to age 23, and in certain unusual situations, even beyond that. In some cases children may become emancipated for child support purposes even before they turn 19.
The New Jersey child support guidelines
New Jersey has a set of codified child support guidelines which determines the amount of child support that is granted. This amount is based upon the incomes of the parties (generally the parents) as well as the amounts of certain expenses, and the parenting or visitation time that is in effect.
What is considered to be New Jersey child support income?
New Jersey child support calculation starts with the parents' combined net income. The calculation of child support starts with a party's with gross income.
Gross income includes all earned and also unearned income that is recurring, and includes wages, tips, interest and dividends, social security income, unemployment benefits, and the like, as well as many non recurring income such as gains from selling property, and inheritances.
From that deductions are made for payment of taxes, alimony, and child support for other children to come up with net income for child support purposes.
The guidelines in New Jersey are especially complicated and requires the parties to provide extensive information to the court on special forms, which are generally filled out with the assistance of experienced child support, divorce, or family law attorneys, using special software.
The child support guidelines also have numerous exceptions, some of which are only known by very experienced lawyers or law firms, such as the Carlin Law Group.
Principal attorney Alexander Carlin is very familiar with the child support guidelines, as well as all of the exceptions, and knows what arguments to make and what evidence to obtain, marshal, and present to the court in order to maximize his clients' chances of getting the best possible outcome.
What items are included in child support?
Child support payments include payments for food and clothing, rent, housing, health insurance , medical expenses, transportation, including car payments, auto maintenance, and public transportation. Also many other additional expenses can be taken into consideration if they are predictable and recurring.
What items are not included in child support?
Some expenses and costs are not included in the NJ child support guidelines, such as certain extracurricular activities of teen aged children.
However, if the parties agree to include them in the divorce order, separation agreement, or subsequent court they will be enforceable, just like other provisions of the child support order.
It is also possible that the court can be convinced to order certain expenses and costs which are not included in the guidelines, even without consent from the other party.
Child support factors that the court will consider in typical divorce cases
Despite the detailed statutory guidelines, New Jersey courts will also usually take certain factors into account in deciding how much child support to order. These include the following:
- The child custody order or current arrangement in place
- The financial, medical, emotional and educational needs of the child
- The standard of living of each parent
- The income, assets, and liabilities of each parent
- The age, healthy, employment history of each parent
- The earning ability of each parent
- The ages, and health of the child or children
- The needs, abilities, and aptitudes of each child for education
Sole parenting vs shared parenting
New Jersey, like many other states (but not the way it is handled in other states, notably New York), has different ways of calculating child support depending on the amount of time the child spends with each parent.
If a child spends less than 28 percent of the time or 105 overnights a year with the non- custodial parent, the child support calculations are based using the sole parenting worksheet.
Under the sole parenting scheme, the non-custodial does not automatically receive any credit for time the child or children spends with him or her, although in some situations courts can be convinced to make some allowance.
If the child spends more than 28% of the time with the non-custodial parent, the child support calculations may be based using the shared parenting worksheet, although the court does have the discretion to use the sole parenting worksheet instead, and give credit to the non-custodial parent for time spent with him and her.
If all of this seems confusing, that is because it is in fact confusing not only to parents, but even to attorneys who are not thoroughly familiar with New Jersey child support law and the way New Jersey courts actually handle child support issues. This is why, whether you are the custodial parent or the non-custodial parent, you would be well served by retaining an attorney , such as Alexander Carlin, who understands NJ child support thoroughly.
Paying for college
In New Jersey a non custodial parent is not automatically liable for the cost of college education of his or her children. However, the court can order the non custodial parent to pay even without his consent, and without him having any input in the school selected, even if his relationship with the child is strained.
If the court orders the non custodial parent to pay the costs of college education and the child actually enrolls in college, the non- custodial parent will also be liable for basic child support beyond the age of 18 while the child is enrolled full time.
Thus, the non custodial parent may be required to pay a portion or even all of the costs of a college education , along with basic child support, until the child graduates from college, and perhaps even through graduate school.
However, all of these issues and possibilities can be addressed by a written agreement between the parties which gives both parties some predictability as to what is going to happen in the future.
In deciding whether or not to order payments for college, as well as the amount or percentage the non custodial parent is ordered to pay, the court will weight 12 factors which are listed in the seminal case of Newburgh. These factors are:
- both parents' financial resources
- amount of money involved
- each parent's ability to pay
- the child's own financial resources, if any
- the child's special aptitudes, special gifts and commitment to the type of school or course of study
- whether the child is eligible to receive financial aid, if so, how much
- the childs ability to earn income during the year or during school breaks
High net worth cases
High net worth child support cases in general, tend to be much more complicated and difficult than other child support cases.
This is because high net worth individuals and families are much more likely to have complicated and oftentimes unusual financial holdings, investments, and income tax issues and complications. These are the cases where you see attorneys wheeling in massive boxes of documents into court.
Also, high net worth divorce cases sometimes require (or end up with ) settlement agreements of close to a hundred pages, in order to resolve complicated shared custody arrangements, life insurance and health insurance for the children, and , payments for nannies for the children and their college education.
In New Jersey, if parents have a combined annual net income of over $187,200 (as of the date of publication of this page), their child support case is considered to be a high net worth case.
In high net worth cases the court has the power to add additional amounts of child support . The amount of additional support is based upon the needs of the child or children, but is supposed to be" reasonable" in view of the parents' income.
The court will most likely require each of the parents to submit a detailed budget of their expenses as well as detailed financial disclosure forms.
Child support modification cases
Most child support cases are modification cases, where a parent either wants to increase or decrease the amount of a prior child support order. In New Jersey, a parent can file a motion if he or she has had "changed circumstances"
Changed circumstances are those that are permanent, substantial, and unanticipated, and the party seeking the change has the burden to submit current financial information and documents.
If the judge is satisfied with the information submitted, the other parent may then be ordered to also present his or her financial information.
The following are some examples of situations where New Jersey courts have found to be changed circumstances which allow a modification of a prior child support order:
- Increase of cost of living of either parent
- Increase or decrease of income for the non custodial parent
- serious illness of either parent or of the child
- non- custodial parent loses their home or becomes homeless
- non- custodial parent has a new job or starts a business
- non- custodial has started living with another person
Proving changed circumstances may be difficult or even impossible in many situations. However under federal law states must have a means for the review and possible adjustment of child support orders. This mechanism is called a "COLA" (cost of living adjustment).
In New Jersey a parent is entitled to a COLA hearing every three years if he or she specifically requests one. COLA review takes place even without a request if the family is receiving public assistance under the TANI program.
At the COLA hearing, the court has the power to change the order without the requirement of having to prove a change in circumstances.
The judge will usually re-calculate the amount of child support based upon the parties current situation, using the child support guidelines, but can then adjust the order.
Mr. Carlin offers a free initial consultation by phone or skype. Call him today at (201) 604-3733.