When it comes to separation and divorce, few issues are more important than child support and custody. New Jersey has two types of custody: Legal and residential (also known as “physical”).

Within these types are two additional types of child custody: Joint and sole.

In New Jersey, joint legal custody means both parents share major decision-making responsibilities for the child. Joint legal custody usually also means a shared parenting plan, when the child shares time between two parents but spends more time at one parent’s home than the other.

On the other hand, sole legal custody means one parent has all decision-making rights regarding the child. Oftentimes, the non-custodial parent has little or no parenting time.

Then there is joint physical custody, where the parents share major decision-making responsibilities for the child and the child lives with each parent for the same amount of time. This arrangement is also called a “50/50” parenting time, and is fairly rare. In these cases, the child may stay in the house and the parents move every few days or weeks (‘known as “nesting”), or the child may stay an equal amount of time at each parent’s home.

What Type of Joint Custody Do You Have?

To review, there are two types of joint custody in New Jersey. One type is joint legal custody, which means that while a child resides primarily with one parent, both parents have decision-making authority. The child may spend more time with one parent than with the other.

The other type is joint physical custody. This means the child spends approximately 50% of overnights with each parent (and the parents share decision-making authority for the child). In this instance, both parents are likely providing equally for the child and, therefore, the child’s living expenses aren’t the sole responsibility of one parent. Unless there is a big disparity in the parents’ incomes, child support may not be paid by either parent to the other, and each parent pays their own expenses for the children.

When Do I Pay Child Support If I Have Joint Custody?

New Jersey Child Support Guidelines provide definitive guidelines on how to calculate child support payments. One of the most important factors is the percentage of overnights a child has with each parent.

If the child lives primarily with one parent and spends time with the other parent, then the parent with whom the child spends fewer overnights usually pays child support. It is often paid by the party making a higher income – but it is still possible the lower-earning parent without primary residential custody may pay child support to the higher-earning parent with primary residential custody.

However, many factors are considered in determining who pays child support and how much. There is a calculation that takes into account how much each parent has to spend on fixed expenses, such as a roof over the child’s head and utilities, as well as more variable expenses, such as food and clothing. A parent only pays for these variable expenses when the child is present.

No matter the terms of your custody agreement, it’s essential to work with experienced legal counsel when custody and child support are involved.

If you’re dealing with child support and custody issues in New Jersey, contact the team at Keith Family Law.