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Child Support

Child Support in Oradell

New Jersey statutes and case law provide that both parents are responsible for the financial needs of their children.

New Jersey Child Support Guidelines

Child support in New Jersey is calculated based on a fixed formula, known as the Child Support Guidelines. The premise of these Guidelines is that (1) child support is a continuous duty of both parents, (2) children are entitled to share in the current income of both parents, and (3) children should not be the economic victims of divorce or out-of-wedlock birth. Most cases fall under the purview of the Child Support Guidelines and the Guidelines were designed to provide uniformity and fairness in child support awards throughout the State of New Jersey. Several factors are considered in the Guidelines, including the parties’ respective incomes, the costs of child care and health insurance expenses and the number of overnights each parent spends with the child.

Expenses Covered by the New Jersey Child Support Guidelines

The Guidelines support award includes the child’s share of expenses for housing, food, clothing, transportation, entertainment, unreimbursed health care up to and including $250 per child per year, and miscellaneous items. Miscellaneous items may include personal care products and services (e.g., hair, shaving, cosmetics), books and magazines, and school supplies. Generally, however, expenses such as private school education, special celebrations, and college costs are not included in a child support award.

The Child Support Guidelines Do Not Apply to Every Case

Although the Guidelines apply to all actions to establish and modify child support awards, extremely low (i.e. obligors with net income less than the U.S. Poverty Guideline) or high parental income situations may warrant a deviation. For parents with a combined net annual income that exceeds $187,200, the court shall apply the Guidelines up to $187,200 and supplement the guidelines-based award with a discretionary amount based on the remaining family income, the children’s needs, and certain other statutory factors.

New Jersey Child Support in High-Income Cases

If the combined net income of the parents is more than $187,200 per year, the court must apply the Guidelines up to $187,200 and supplement the Guidelines based award with a discretionary amount based on the remaining family income and certain statutory factors, including:

  • the needs of each child
  • the standard of living and economic circumstances of each parent
  • all sources of income and assets of each parent
  • the earning ability of each parent, including educational background, training, employment skills, work experience and custodial responsibility for each child (including the cost of child care), as well as the length of time and cost required for each parent to obtain training or experience for appropriate employment
  • the need and capacity of the child for education, including higher education
  • the age and health of the child and each parent
  • the income, assets and earning ability of the child
  • the parents’ responsibility for the court-ordered support of others
  • reasonable debts and liabilities of the child and each parent
  • any other factors the court may deem relevant.

New Jersey Court rulings show that support awards in high-income situations must meet a child’s reasonable needs and reflect the family’s lifestyle. This is based on the premise that every child has the right to be financially supported by both parents and if one or both parents are successful, the children have a right to share in that good fortune. However, a child support award in high-income scenarios should not constitute an inappropriate windfall to the child or infringe on the legitimate right of either parent to determine the appropriate lifestyle of his or her own child.

New Jersey Courts have provided that judges must be vigilant in providing for children’s needs, consistent with lifestyle and without overindulgence. Some courts have dubbed this the “Three Pony Rule,” which states that “no child, no matter how wealthy the parents, needs to be provided more than three ponies.”

Child Support in Cases with Equal Parenting Time If the time spent with each parent is equal (50% of overnights each), then a “shared” Child Support Guideline will be used by the Court. The Court will consider both parties’ incomes in such a scenario. Barring a significant discrepancy in the parties’ incomes, the child support award, if any, would likely be small.

Emancipation

Child support is paid until a child is deemed emancipated by either a Court or pursuant to a marital settlement agreement. Prior to February 1, 2017, child support payments did not end automatically at 18, or at any other age, unless an age was specified in a court order or marital settlement agreement. If no age was specified, the obligor was required to file an application in court to end the payments. As of February 1, 2017, the statutory age for termination of child support in New Jersey is 19. Once a child turns 18 and/or becomes financially independent, a parent may file an application with the court requesting that the child be emancipated. Based on the facts, the court will decide if the child still needs support from the parents. If there is no court order specifying a date, age or circumstance when support stops, child support may terminate automatically when the child turns 19. A custodial parent may request that support continue if he or she can prove that the child is still in high school, enrolled full-time in post-secondary education or physically or mentally disabled.

Modification of Child Support

Child support can be modified upward or downward based on “changed circumstances.” New Jersey case law requires that the change in circumstance be permanent, substantial and unanticipated. Examples of “changed circumstances” include job loss, permanent disability/illness of a party or a child, decreased or increased parenting time by the non-custodial parent, and change in income. In addition, if a child’s needs have changed, a parent may seek to modify an existing child support award.

Remedies for Non-payment of Child Support

Child support can be enforced by the payee spouse by making an application to the Court. In addition, if child support is payable through the court, Probation will take steps to enforce the order. This may include wage garnishment, garnishment of a tax refund or lottery winnings, and reporting the delinquency to a credit reporting agency. Probation can also execute on the non-custodial parent's property such as bank accounts, insurance proceeds, cars, boats, or real estate.

If you have questions about child support, you may need the guidance of an experienced family law attorney. Contact The Law Office of Joseph A. DiPiazza, LLC at (201) 597-0065 to schedule a legal consultation with our New Jersey Child Support Attorney.

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