Welcome to the world of “Unmarried with Children.” One of the many pieces that needs to be decided on when children are involved in a divorce is the child support amount. Even once the divorce is finalized, it doesn’t mean this piece is done and set in stone. Certain factors may give reasons to reevaluate the amount being paid and the impact this decision has often leads to a lot of questions about child support payments.
One of the biggest concerns involved with child support is how to ensure the amount is in the best interests of the child while being fair. Some of the most common questions we hear are:
- How is child support in NJ determined?
- How long do you have to pay or receive child support in NJ?
- When can the amount be changed?
The calculation of child support is done according to guidelines and is meant to be based on very specific factors. There are times when adjustments can be made outside of the guidelines according to the judge’s discretion and the particular situation, such as when a special needs child may require additional support.
Rules of Calculating Child Support in NJ
Child support is meant to help maintain a level of living for a child as if the parents were still together. It’s not meant to keep the custodial parent at a certain level, which is the purpose of alimony. It’s also not meant to be used as leverage for a parent to get time with their child, which is what the custody agreement is for.
Child support is simply meant to help support the child or children financially. Your income and your ex’s income is only a small part of the calculation. The court will review these income levels and other factors to determine what the parent who has primary custody of the child or children should receive from the non-custodial parent.
One of the factors that may affect child support calculations will be the number of children involved. The court takes into consideration not just the number of children involved in this one specific relationship, but also any other children that the parents are supporting from other relationships. If any of those children have special needs, that will be considered as well.
Another important item to remember is that your new partner or spouse’s income or your ex’s new partner’s or spouse’s income is never taken into account when dealing with child support. Remember – child support in New Jersey is meant to keep a child in the same lifestyle he or she would have if both parents were still together.
The NJ Child Support Equation
Court Rule 5:6A outlines all of the NJ child support guidelines. This are over 100 pages of complex court rules used to calculate child support in NJ under several different circumstances. The final child support agreement will be determined based not only on these guidelines and a standardized formula, but also on your unique situation, the child custody agreement and any extenuating circumstances.
The State of New Jersey produced a helpful tool called the quick guide calculator that gives a basic idea of how child support in NJ is calculated and provides an estimate of what you can expect to pay or receive for child support in New Jersey. The calculator asks questions such as:
- Number of children
- Whether it is sole or shared custody
- Percentage of parenting time for the parent without custody
- Gross income for both parents
- Prior support orders for either parent
- Tax filing status for both parents
It’s important to remember this is just an estimate and not an absolute value. Additional factors such as a child with special needs who will likely require more financial support or children who are in daycare will be taken into consideration. These factors can be discussed with your attorney and brought before the judge as part of additional circumstances to be considered.
Changing or Canceling Child Support in New Jersey
Child support in New Jersey is not a finite order to remain unchecked forever. It’s meant to be adjusted as needed. The courts recommend child support orders be reviewed every two years and altered if necessary.
You may earn more money over the years or your ex may be laid off and need to take a lower paying job. Maybe the needs of your child will change, requiring more or less money. Your ex may remarry and have other children. All of these issues can change the court order for child support.
Child support payments don’t end because your child turns eighteen or graduates from a four-year college. You or your ex must petition the court to put an end to support payments prior to the age of 19. If no order is filed to either cancel or extend child support payments, they will automatically end when your child turns 19.
Child support payments are a critical piece of the divorce process and their ongoing assessments mean it’s important to stay on top of what these potential changes could mean for you and your family. It’s best to work with an experienced lawyer who can make sure your child or children get the support they deserve and the payment amounts are fair.
If you need help with your child custody payments, whether you’re receiving them or are the one paying, contact the lawyers at Keith Family Law to see how we can help you.