Child Support for Multiple Families
Parents going through a divorce are often primarily concerned with how the will affect their children. In New Jersey, the financial support of a child is the continuous duty of both parents, regardless of marital status. Child support amounts in New Jersey are determined by first calculating the amount of support that parents would be spent on a child as if the family was intact, then that amount is split between the parents according to their income. While the principles for calculating child support may seem straight forward, they can easily become quite complex in modern families.Modification of Child Support Guidelines
When determining how much child support to order to a parent, a New Jersey family court judge will first review the New Jersey Child Support Guidelines. A judge will then determine if “good cause” is shown for a modification of the Guidelines. One such “good cause” for modification of the Guidelines may occur when a parent has multiple families. For example, modification may be necessary when a parent has to provide child support for two children from different relationships.Method of Calculating Child Support for Multiple Families – Harte v. Hand
In December 2013 the New Jersey Appellate Division addressed the issue of calculating child support for multiple families in the case of Harte v. Hand, and provided a framework for calculating an equitable child support award. In that case, the Defendant (the father) had three children with three different mothers. The oldest child lived with Defendant and his wife, the middle child lived with his mother, T.B., and the youngest lived with her mother, Ms. Harte, who is Defendant’s ex-wife.
Two separate child support orders were entered for Defendant to pay, each treating Defendant as though “the only other child defendant supported was the oldest son living with him.” Defendant appealed those child support orders to the Appellate Division. The Appellate Division agreed with Defendant and said that the calculations should have taken into account the financial effect of one child support order on the other child support order.
Under the New Jersey Child Support Guidelines, if calculating a child support order where there is a prior child support order, the amount of that prior order must be deducted from the parent’s weekly income when determining how much the parent will be required to pay for the subsequent child support order. In Harte, however, the court stated that a child born later in time should not be penalized by receiving a lower amount of child support than a previously born child, and suggested a modification.
The Appellate Division’s method of calculation modifies the Guidelines and would result in the calculation of equitable amounts of support for each of the families. Judge Koblitz’s method first treats each of the families, (in this case T.B. and Harte) as the “prior” obligation and calculates the support they would receive. Then, each is treated as the later obligation. The calculations are then averaged to reach the amount of support to each child. The court suggested this methodology as a possible solution for child support calculations involving multiple families, but said that “this may well not be the only way to equitably calculate support for multiple families.”
Child support cases are complex and depend on a number of factors that are unique to each family. If you have questions about child support for your family, call the Law Offices of Peter Van Aulen at 201-845-7400 for a consultation.Sources
Harte v. Hand, 433 N.J. Super. 457 (App. Div. 2013)
New Jersey Child Support Guidelines, Rule 5:6A