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FAQs: Child Support

How do I Know if I Have to Pay Child Support?

Pursuant to the New Jersey Child Support laws, both parents are financially responsible for their children. Even if the child has never lived with you and does not live with you now, you may be responsible for child support payments to the other parent or to guardian of the child. This is true even if you were never married to and/or never lived with the other parent.

Are There any Terms I Should Know Regarding New Jersey Child Support?

There are certain terms that the New Jersey court system regularly uses in child support cases that are helpful to know if you have a child support case. Here are a few of the common terms:

Custodial Parent – This is the parent who lives with the child and who has primary responsibility for the child. In the child support context, the custodial parent is sometimes referred to as the payee or obligee, as this is the parent who will receive the child support payments.

Non-Custodial Parent – This is the parent who does not live with the child and does not have primary day-to-day responsibility for the child, although he or she may have parenting or visitation time. The non-custodial parent is sometimes referred to as the payor or obligor because this is the parent who is paying the child support.

New Jersey Child Support Guidelines – A standard method used in the State of New Jersey to determine the amount of money necessary to raise the child. Many factors are considered and the guidelines are used by the Court to determine the child support award.

Gross Income – This is all earned and unearned income that is recurring or will raise the individual’s income over a period of time. Gross income includes (but is not limited to) wages, tips, bonuses, commissions, received alimony, disability payments, workers’ compensation, unemployment benefits, severance pay, and even gambling wages. Generally, if the income is taxable by the federal government, it will be considered gross income.

Net income – This figure is calculated by taking the gross income subtracting certain payments such as taxes, mandatory union dues, alimony, and child support.

Arrears – This is the amount of support owed by the noncustodial parent that has not been paid.

How is New Jersey Child Support Calculated?

Simply stated, the New Jersey Child Support Guidelines will determine what monetary amount is needed to meet the financial needs of the child, such as food, clothing, and shelter. Once a determination has been made regarding the support necessary for the child, the parents’ respective percentage of responsibility is determined by a calculation of their net incomes and parenting time.

Do the Courts Ever Deviate From the New Jersey Child Support Guidelines?

Yes. Sometimes deviations are allowed based upon special circumstances, such as the special needs of a child, households of more than six children, and educational expenses.

How Long Does a Parent Have to Pay Child Support?

The obligation to pay child support begins at the time the child is born. As of February 1, 2017, a child is statutorily emancipated at 19 and the support order is terminated, unless the custodial parent successfully requests that the support order be extended for good cause. A parent may be ordered to continue support payments after the child reaches the age of 19 if the child is disabled, in school full time, or if the child is in placement. All child support ends when the child turns 23, without exception.

Can a New Jersey Child Support Order be Modified?

Yes. The child support order can be reviewed every three years from the date of the order. The review may result in an increase in support, a decrease in support, or no change at all. A custodial parent can also motion for an increase in support at any time, based upon a change in circumstances, such as an increase to the noncustodial parent’s income or a change in a child’s needs. A noncustodial parent can also request a modification, lowering the amount of child support if there is a permanent and substantial change in the payor’s circumstances, such as an injury that leaves the payor unable to work. In order to modify an order, either party must file paperwork with the court and request a hearing or conference. It is important to note that the parent requesting the modification must be prepared to prove that a major change in circumstances has occurred.

Cases established or modified after September 1, 1998 are eligible for a cost of living increase every two years. The increase occurs automatically without a hearing.

What Happens if a Non-Custodial Parent Does not Pay Support?

Failure to pay child support can have drastic consequences, such as garnishment of wages, garnishment of tax refunds, suspension of driver’s license, a judgment on the arrears that creates a lien on real property, notification to the credit reporting agencies, and jail time for contempt of court. Rather than failing to pay child support, a noncustodial parent who cannot pay the child support as ordered should request a modification of the support order.

Is a Custodial Parent Entitled to Back Support for Payments That Have not Been Made?

Yes. A custodial parent is entitled to receive support from the date that he or she filed paperwork asking the Court for an award of child support. In awarding back support, the judge may order a lump sum in the amount of the arrears, or may order that the arrears be paid in installments.

What if a Noncustodial Parent Voluntarily Becomes Unemployed or Underemployed in Order to Pay Less Child Support?

The court can “impute” a party’s income by using the former income of the parent or by looking at the average salary the parent would earn in his or her particular field, based upon the New Jersey Department of Labor statistics. The support order would be based on the imputed income.

How can I Make New Jersey Child Support Payments?

Income withholding from the obligor’s paycheck is required unless otherwise directed by the court. Income withholding can also be applied to unemployment benefits, Social Security disability payments, disability payments, and the like. The payments are received by the New Jersey Family Support Payment Center (NJFSPC). If the support order does not direct that payments be made via income withholding, payments can mailed to NJFSP or paid online.

How Does the Custodial Parent Receive Support Payments?

The support payments are disbursed by debit card or directly deposited into the payee’s bank account by the NJFSPC.

Should I Have an Attorney Represent me in my Support Case?

New Jersey’s Child Support Guidelines can be difficult to navigate, especially when it comes to deviations from the guidelines. Besides guiding you through the process and completing the New Jersey Child Support Worksheet correctly and with your specific interests in mind, an attorney will make sure that income and expense figures are calculated correctly. An experienced attorney can also give you a good estimate of what amount of support you can expect to pay or receive.

If you think you need help with your New Jersey child support case, you can contact the Law Offices of Peter Van Aulen at 201-845-7400 for a consultation.

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