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When going through a separation or divorce as a parent in New Jersey, a key part of the process involves calculating child support. By law, both parents are required to financially support their children until they reach adulthood, and failing to pay child support can have serious consequences. In order to accurately calculate what you owe (or what your child’s other parent owes), it is important to work with an experienced New Jersey child support lawyer who can help you understand the rules and guidelines that apply.
While there are clear guidelines for calculating child support in New Jersey, there are various aspects of calculating child support that still present challenges for most parents. If you are going through a divorce or separation with children, here are five key aspects of calculating child support of which you should be aware:
New Jersey child support is typically calculated by using a Child Support Worksheet. The Worksheet generates an appropriate New Jersey child support obligation according to each spouse's income and other factors such as taxes paid and retirement contributions in accordance with the New Jersey Child Support Guidelines.
Courts follow the New Jersey Child Support guidelines unless both parents agree to an amount other than that calculated by the guidelines, or the courts decide the guidelines are unjust due to specific circumstances of the case.
New Jersey uses the Income Shares Model to determine the amount of child support the noncustodial parent must pay. This estimated amount is then divided proportionally to the parents according to each parent's income. It is easy to do this using the New Jersey Child Support Worksheet. Pay records typically substantiate the estimated incomes.
This model takes into account both parents' gross income and applies a percentage to it based on the number of minor children they have together. The court takes the combined income of both parents and works out the proportion each contributes. That figure is then divided proportionately based on each parent's ability to pay and which parent has primary custody.
Once this amount is determined it is essential to take a look at any appropriate New Jersey child support deviation factors that may be applicable to the situation. If the noncustodial parent has a higher income than the custodial parent, the noncustodial parent would then be responsible for the greater portion of the child support obligation; conversely, if the noncustodial parent has a lower income than the custodial, the noncustodial parent would then be responsible for the smaller portion of the child support obligation.
New Jersey child support is governed by statute and court rules. The legislature has developed a complex formula over many years to determine what the appropriate amount of support should be for each child. Child support is calculated utilizing various factors including:
Parties should be aware that not all expenses are covered by child support. Expenses not covered by child support include, but are not limited to, payment for private school costs and unreimbursed medical expenses. A custodial parent may need to seek additional support from the other party for contribution toward these expenses.
When going through a separation or divorce, it is important to take the time necessary to accurately calculate child support. While it is possible to modify child support after a separation or divorce, it is only possible to do so in limited circumstances.
Specifically, New Jersey law requires a permanent, substantial and unanticipated change of circumstances in order justify a request to modify child support. This is not just any permanent, substantial and unanticipated change, but one that affects the paying parent’s obligation and ability to pay. When deciding whether a change in circumstances warrants a modification of child support, the New Jersey courts consider factors including:
If you need to request a child support modification, you should discuss your situation with an attorney promptly, and you should not stop paying unless and until you receive formal approval from a judge.
In New Jersey, child support is a considered priority payment. This means that parents must meet their child support obligations prior to paying certain other expenses, and it means that parents can face steep penalties if they do not comply with their child support orders. It is important that each party understands the importance of reaching the correct calculation and of paying his/her obligation timely. The New Jersey legislature takes payment of child support very seriously. If one is significantly behind on his/her child support payments, he/she may face incarceration.
At Helmer, Conley, & Kasselman, PA, our New Jersey child support attorney has successfully represented many clients in child support matters -- whether they need child support enforcement, a modification in their child support or termination of their child support obligation. If you need help and would like to speak with one of our attorneys, we encourage you to call 877-435-6371 or contact us online to arrange a confidential initial consultation.
Don’t let your rights be jeopardized.