In New Jersey, parents’ child support obligations are determined according to the state’s Child Support Guidelines (the “Guidelines”). These Guidelines focus on two primary considerations: (i) the child’s needs, and (ii) the parents’ respective abilities to pay.
However, calculating child support is often more difficult than parents expect. The Guidelines are fairly complex, and they require consideration of a variety of different factors depending upon the parents’ financial and family circumstances. If you are preparing to go through a divorce or need to address child support for a child born out of wedlock, here is a brief introduction to some of the key issues involved:
Calculating Child Support in New Jersey: What Parents Need to Know
1. Determining Each Parent’s Ability to Pay
What is your ability to pay? What is your spouse’s (or co-parent’s) ability to pay? These are both critical questions when it comes to calculating child support, and they require a careful assessment of both parents’ qualifying sources of income and pre-existing financial obligations.
In some circumstances, parents may attempt to conceal income in order to reduce their child support obligations. If you are concerned that your spouse or former partner may be hiding income, there are methods available for ensuring that you receive a fair child support award.
2. The Guidelines are Not Hard-and-Fast Rules
While the Guidelines will control the calculation of child support in most circumstances, the New Jersey courts have the authority to deviate from the Guidelines, “to accommodate the needs of the children or the parents’ circumstances.” If you believe that a support calculation made pursuant to the Guidelines is inappropriate given your unique circumstances, you may be able to petition the court for an alternative child support award.
3. A Child Support Award Should Maintain the Child’s Standard of Living (to the Extent Possible)
As a general rule, a child support award should maintain the child’s standard of living prior to his or her parents’ separation; and, as we have stated previously, children should not be the economic victims of their parents’ decisions. However, the Guidelines also recognize that there are inherent costs involved in separating and maintaining two households, and they account for the possibility of each parent contributing less to their child’s needs under appropriate circumstances.
4. Accounting for Extraordinary and Special Expenses
While a child support award should, at a minimum, provide for the child’s basic financial needs, there various costs that will either (i) qualify as “extraordinary expenses,” or (ii) fall outside of the realm of child support. For example, expenses for extracurricular activities will require special consideration, and college expenses will need to be addressed separately as well.
Contact the New Jersey Child Support Lawyers at Helmer, Conley & Kasselman
If you have questions about calculating child support in New Jersey, we encourage you to contact us for a free consultation. To speak with an experienced family lawyer in confidence, please call 1-877-435-6371 or request an appointment online today.