In New Jersey, both parents are required to financially support their children, regardless of marital status. Typically, one parent has primary custody and is responsible for the majority of the children’s daily care, and the non-custodial parent is ordered to pay child support toward that care.
How Is Child Support Determined in New Jersey?
The court’s primary concern is the welfare and best interests of the children. Child support is to address the child’s needs and allows them to maintain a standard of living with financial stability. In order to determine appropriate child support, the court will examine various factors pertaining to the parents’ and child’s lives, such as:
- Current ages and health of both parents and child.
- The child’s needs.
- Each parent’s standard of living and associated economic circumstances.
- Income, assets, debts, and liabilities of each parent.
- Each parent’s earning ability, including education or training, skills, work experience, and additional responsibilities of the custodial parent.
- Cost and time required for each parent to obtain training or experience toward employment.
- Educational needs and abilities of the child, including higher education.
- The child’s income, assets, debts, liabilities, and earning ability, if of employment age.
- Each parent’s responsibility for court-ordered support of other children.
- Any other factors the court deems relevant.
What Costs Does Child Support Cover?
Child support is ordered to ensure that all of the children’s necessities are provided. Both parents are required to provide for their child; one parent is responsible for providing financial support and the other is obligated to apply payments appropriately. Child support payments cover basic necessities, such as:
- Housing, including portions of property taxes, mortgage payments, and home insurance
- Health care
As children age, child support may cover additional needs, including:
- Recreational activities
- Transportation, like car payments, maintenance, or public transportation
- Unreimbursed health care up to $250
Child support payments are intended for the child’s financial stability and to maintain their pre-divorce standard of living. Payments must go toward the child’s necessities and are not to be used freely.
Can Child Support Be Modified in New Jersey?
Personal and financial situations change over time, and modification of child support may be necessary. If one parent has a “substantial change in circumstances,” either parent can petition the court to modify the order. Whichever parent makes the request is responsible for showing proof to support the request. A substantial change in circumstances may include:
- Loss of income for either parent.
- Higher cost of living; change of expenses.
- Increase or decrease of the non-custodial parent’s income.
- Custodial parent has gained employment or an income increase.
- Serious health condition, injury, or disability of either parent or child.
- Custodial parent has lost housing or is living with another adult.
- Federal income tax changes.
- Increase or decrease in parenting time.
- One parent now supports additional children.
- One parent has received a large sum of money, such as an inheritance.
Recognizing the annual increase in cost of living, New Jersey law automatically increases child support every two years to accommodate inflation. However, this can be contested if the payor’s income has not increased with the rate of inflation.
Additionally, federal law requires states to perform a review of child support orders for families receiving Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) benefits every three years and adjust the amount of child support, if necessary, following the review.
When Does Child Support End?
Child support is complex, and there is no definite cut-off date for support based on a number of variables exclusive to each case. However, generally, children are considered emancipated on their 19th birthday in New Jersey. There are some circumstances in which the court will grant an extension to 23 years old, typically for children attending college. Additionally, children with special needs, disabilities, or medical conditions requiring the parents’ financial support may also be granted child support extensions. Though less common, some children may be emancipated from support before age 19 if the child:
- No longer lives with either parent.
- Has enlisted in the military.
- Is now employed and financially independent.
- Has married.
- Has children of their own or is pregnant.
What if Child Support Is Not Paid?
Child support payments are court-ordered and therefore mandatory. When a parent is behind on payments or refuses to make them, the New Jersey Probation Child Support Enforcement (PCSE) Unit is responsible for taking actions, many of which can adversely affect other areas of the payor’s life, such as:
- Garnished wages/income withholding
- Negative credit bureau reporting
- Seizure of state or federal tax refunds
- Asset and cash seizures, such as bank accounts
- Suspended licenses
- Passport denial
- Court enforcement hearings
- Civil awards/settlements
- Bench warrants for arrest
In some cases, the PCSE will locate absent parents who have been ordered to pay child support, establish paternity, enforce medical orders, and collect payments.
Are There Alternatives to Child Support?
Some parents reach an agreement to share certain child-related expenses without court-ordered child support. Parents often choose this option for payments not included through regular child support provisions, such as private school tuition and extracurricular activity fees. Payments are often determined by assigning a percentage of each parent’s income in lieu of fixed payments. You should seek assistance from a child support attorney if you are considering any type of alternative child support arrangement.
How Can a Lawyer Help With Child Support?
Child support matters are complex, and it is essential to have an experienced attorney who can advise what the child is entitled to and what payments must be made. Without an attorney, it can be incredibly challenging to navigate the laws and New Jersey child support guidelines. A skilled attorney can:
- Ensure fairness in determining child support payments by insisting all parties have equal access to financial documents.
- Investigate and account for unearned income, such as stock dividends or rent not included in earned salary, as well as savings accounts.
- Help secure payments in arrears.
- Represent you in court hearings.
- Help locate an absent parent who is not making payments.
- Mitigate disputes, such as one parent withholding parenting time for non-payment.
- Be an ally, advising on when and how to speak or not speak to the other payment regarding child support until the court rules.
- Ensure your rights are protected.
- Help save you money, time, and stress.
Working with a knowledgeable and experienced New Jersey child support attorney at Wiley Lavender Maknoor, PC increases your chances of obtaining a favorable outcome.
New Jersey Child Support Attorneys at Wiley Lavender Maknoor, PC Help Families Establish Solid Child Support Agreements
Children are a primary concern during divorce. At Wiley Lavender Maknoor, PC, your children’s best interests are our top priority. Call our New Jersey child support attorneys at 732-494-6099 or complete an online form to schedule a free consultation. Located in Metuchen, New Jersey, we serve clients in Middlesex County, Monmouth County, Union County, and Somerset County.