By: Carl A. Taylor III, Esq.
Payment of support is an obligation that runs from parent to child rather than from parent to parent. When viewed through this prism, Child Support Law in New Jersey becomes more easily understood.
Determining Child Support in New Jersey
In most instances, the child support amount will be determined by the New Jersey Child Support Guidelines. These guidelines take the form of a complicated equation. Some of the factors taken into consideration by the New Jersey Child Support Guidelines include:
- Both parties’ income from all sources, (both earned and unearned, including alimony).
- The amount of overnight parenting time exercised by each parent.
- The children’s ages.
- The number of children.
- Health Care and Child Care costs.
- Support Paid for Children from another relationship.
As the New Jersey Child Support Guidelines are an equation, most disputes involve data input. For instance, a party may argue that their ex-spouse earns a substantial but unreported sum of money from tips. This would affect that spouses’ income–and therefore the child support amount.
Please Keep in Mind…
In the past, I have had some clients misunderstand the nature of each party’s child support obligation.
For instance, many parents of alternate residence believe that they are paying for all of the children’s support. In most instances, however, this simply is not so.
A parent of primary residence may not have a probation account, but they are still paying for all of the children’s expenses not covered by the child support payments. In fact, except in very rare instances, neither party has a 100% obligation to support their children. It is a shared obligation–or at least that is the objective of the child support guidelines.
Likewise, many parent’s of primary residence expect the child support to cover all of the children’s expenses. Again, the goal is shared expenses for the children.
Deviation from the Child Support Guidelines
There are some instances where child support guidelines will not be used, or the final support obligation will deviate from the child support amount. Two such instances are:
- Child Support Guidelines are not used when an adult child resides away from home during college.
- When the net income of the parties’ (from all sources) exceeds $187,200, then a deviation from the New Jersey Child Support Guidelines may be necessary. *$187,200 in net income is the current income threshold under the New Jersey Child Support Guidelines.
When a child support account is set-up through Family Support Services/Probation, there will often be periodic increases in support (cost of living adjustments, i.e. COLA). Likewise, the parties may agree to revisit child support at certain set intervals.
Child support may also be modified, however, at any time–should there be a change in circumstances. Some common examples of what may be considered a change in circumstances include:
- Modification of custody or parenting time.
- Changes in the incomes of the parties (positive or negative).
- Job loss, serious illness, and/or disability.
Unlike some other states, New Jersey does not assume the emancipation of a child or the termination of child support upon a child’s eighteenth birthday.
Parent’s of Alternate Residence may be thinking: “I guess I’ll just have to enter into an Agreement with the Parent of Primary Residence.” But again, it’s not that simple.
Let’s revisit the important concept that the right to child support belongs to the child rather than either party, (See: Pascale v. Pascale, 140 N.J. 583 (1995)). For that reason, under New Jersey law, neither party can effectively waive a child’s right to ongoing support.
Therefore, both parents have an ongoing duty to care for their children, and if applicable, pay child support, until the child is emancipated (emancipation will be covered in a subsequent post). Thus while the parties could Consent to emancipation and/or the termination of child support, in theory that Agreement could be subject to an attack by the adult child or a child’s guardian.
The basic legal threshold for emancipation in New Jersey is commonly referred to as when a child has moved beyond the “sphere and influence” of his or her parents. It is rare for a Court to find that a student attending college full-time, directly after high school, has moved beyond the “sphere and influence” of his or her parents.
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