With few exceptions, child support in New Jersey is calculated using the Child Support Guidelines contained in an Appendix to the New Jersey Rules of Court.  The premise behind the guidelines is that 1) child support is the continuous duty of both parents; 2) children are entitled to share in the current income of both parents (as well as the good fortune of either parent); and 3) children should not be the economic victims of divorce or out-of-wedlock birth.  The purpose of child support is to ensure that the financial needs of your children are being met by you and the other parent.

Factors in determining an appropriate amount of child support include the incomes of both parents, the ages of the children, and the amount of spousal support one pays and one receives.  A party’s income is determined by a review of his or her income tax returns for the last calendar year, his or her W-2s, 1099s or similar documents, and each party’s last three (3) pay stubs.

If a party is unemployed or under-employed, New Jersey law permits the court to impute income to that person using known data from the New Jersey Department of Labor.  This reinforces the notion that child support is the right of the child and the obligation of both parents.  A parent who does not work generally may not avoid a contribution to the support of the children.

A parent’s child support obligation is affected by the parties’ custodial arrangement.  A Shared Parenting Worksheet is called for in instances where the non-custodial parent or parent of alternate residence (“PAR”) has the equivalent of more than four overnights with the child in a two week period.  A Sole Parenting Worksheet is used in those cases where the PAR has the equivalent of fewer than four overnights in a two week period.  Because the number of overnights with the non-custodial parent will often result in a lesser support obligation to the custodial parent or the parent of primary residence (“PPR”), issues of child support are often intertwined with the parenting schedule.

Child support awards are not permanent and are subject to a modification if it is shown that there have been permanent substantial changes of circumstances affecting the children or the parents.  These include increases or decreases in either party’s income, changes in custody or the parenting schedule, and in many cases, the passage of time between the initial child support calculation and the modifications based on adjustments to the cost of living.  A child’s emancipation, understood as her graduation from high school and fulltime employment, or, assuming an aptitude for higher education, her graduation from college, is also a circumstance that can trigger a modification of child support.

Whether you want to establish an initial child support award or to modify or enforce an existing child support order, the experienced family lawyers at Paras, Apy and Reiss, P.C. can guide you through the child support maze and help you navigate the many variables that affect a child support award.

The information in this article is not intended as legal advice.  For legal advice, you should consult your attorney.