Calculating Child Support
One of the most common questions from parents involved in a divorce with children is calculating New Jersey child support. Every case is different, but most courts rely upon the Child Support Guidelines developed by economists. The guidelines aim to provide uniformity in child support awards across the state. Deviations are sometimes allowed, particularly in cases where the parties earn significant incomes or have established a certain standard of living.Shared Income
When calculating New Jersey child support, courts consider both parents’ income. This combined income is then used to determine the amount of support the non-custodial parents should pay to the custodial parent. The custodial parent is the person who has physical custody of the child. The non-custodial parent (NCP) does not have physical custody but will be able to enjoy parenting time.
Courts are also allowed to ‘impute’ income to parents. If a judge suspects one parent is either voluntarily unemployed or underemployed, they will impute what that person’s income should be to calculate support. It could be that individual’s former income, or the average salary according to the New Jersey Department of Labor Wage statistics.The Process
The calculations use the parents’ combined net income. To come up with this number, the courts must first use gross income. This means regular compensation, tips, bonuses, alimony, disability payments – even gambling. Any money that the federal government can tax is a good rule of thumb when determining an individual’s gross income. Then, the courts will remove payments like taxes, Medicare contributions, other child support, or union dues to determine what the parents’ net income tax is.
The court also factors in how much parenting time each parent has. If the child spends at least 28 percent of overnight parenting time with the (104 nights) NCP, then this is shared parenting. The NCP usually will pay less child support if they have more parenting time.Age of the Child
The child’s age also makes a difference when calculating New Jersey child support. If child support is first ordered when a child is at least 12 or older, the guidelines will be automatically adjusted upward by 14.6 percent. The theory is that it is more expensive to raise a teenager than an infant, so a surplus of support should be building up from the time the child is very young.
Once the child enters college, the Guidelines are inapplicable. However, if the child lives at home while attending college, then the court has the discretion to apply the guidelines and order child support. The child is emancipated if they have joined the military or marry, and child support is no longer required.
While it can seem confusing or overwhelming, courts use a child support worksheet when calculating New Jersey child support. Parties representing themselves will find it easy enough to fill out, although it’s always a good idea to retain a lawyer to help you navigate the legal system in any family law matter.Deviations
When calculating New Jersey child support, courts acknowledge that they are merely guidelines. They apply to parents whose combined net incomes are between either $8,840 and $187,200 per year. For anything less than that, the Court will award support based on the needs of the child and only the payor’s income and expenses. If the combined net income exceeds that amount, then the award is based on that maximum. But, the court will then add in an amount within its discretion based on the needs of the child, the standard of living established, earning ability of each parent, custodial responsibility, and any other factor deemed relevant by the court.
The Court can deviate from these guidelines for other reasons as well. Special needs of the children, households with more than 6 children, or educational expenses have all been considered to be special circumstances requiring deviation from the guidelines.Expenses
Parents must use child support to cover standard expenses in raising a child. Usually, this includes food and shelter, transportation, clothing, entertainment and other expenses. Child support also includes the first $250 of unreimbursed medical expenses per year, per child. Unpredictable or non-recurring expenses are usually not included in the child support award. This would include things like private school, college tuition, or one-off celebrations like a quinceañera or graduation party.Modifications
Child support is always able to be modified. It can be increased or decreased. Support will be decreased if a permanent and substantial change in circumstances has occurred, such as the payor has lost their job, or they have been injured and unable to work to the same extent as before. Changes upward include promotions, an increase in income, the maturation of the child, or a change in the child’s needs. The best interest and needs of the child are always the paramount consideration of the court when calculating New Jersey child support – whether increasing or decreasing.Enforcement
If a parent is unable to pay child support as ordered, it’s crucial to obtain a modification. That’s because the order can and will be enforced against the paying parent if they fail to fulfill their obligations. In order to enforce a court order or separation agreement, the recipient party must make an application to the court. The Court itself can also enforce the order if the support is supposed to be paid through the Probation Department, an administrative arm of the judiciary. This method of payment is useful. Payments are made through the court itself, meaning they can be monitored and enforced, even without the custodial parent from having to intervene. If a party chooses not to pay support as ordered, they face consequences. Their professional or driver’s licenses can be suspended until the obligation has been met. The paying parent’s wages can be garnished. A judgment on arrears can be entered with the court, creating a lien on real property and affecting the paying parent’s credit. In severe cases, the NCP can be jailed for contempt of court.
If you have questions about calculating New Jersey child support, call The Law Offices of Peter Van Aulen at 201-845-7400 today, for a free consultation.