New Jersey Child Support Guidelines
Generally, in New Jersey, the amount of child support you pay is based on the New Jersey Child Support Guidelines. These Guidelines are found in Appendix IX of the New Jersey Court Rules. You may review the Guidelines at the following address: http://www.judiciary.state.nj.us/csguide/index.htm.
"The premise of the 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." N.J. Court Rules Appendix IX.
The New Jersey Child Support Guidelines attempt to allocate the cost of raising a child fairly between the child's parents. The non-custodial parent may often feel as if he/she is the only parent paying for the children. However, this is not the case. The Guidelines determine the amount of money it will take to raise your child/children depending on the child's or children's age(s) and the income of both parents (the Guidelines assume that as income increases, the cost to raise the children also increases). The Guidelines then allocate that cost between both parents dependent upon their respective incomes. For example, if the custodial parent has an income of $35,000 per year, and the non-custodial parent has an income of $50,000 per year, and they have two children under the age of 12, and the non-custodial parent has the children for 52 overnights per year, and there are no other adjustments (i.e. other dependents, child care expenses, health care expenses, health insurance costs, or other adjustments considered by the court), the total child support amount will be approximately $352 per week and the non-custodial parent's obligation will be approximately $176 per week.
The New Jersey Child Support Guidelines apply to parties whose combined net incomes are greater than $170/week ($8,840/year) and less than $3,600/week ($187,200/year). For combined net incomes below $170/week, the Court should award an amount based on the needs of the child and the payor's net income and expenses. The amount awarded should be between $5.00 and the amount that would be awarded if the net income was $170/week. If the combined net incomes are greater than $3,600/week the Child Support Guidelines award based on $3,600 is the minimum basic support award. The Court should then add a discretionary amount based upon the factors set forth in N.J.S.A. 2A:34-23, which include the needs of the child, the standard of living and economic circumstances of each parent, all sources of income and assets of each parent, earning ability of each parent, including educational background, training, employment skills, work experience, custodial responsibility for children including the cost of providing child care and the length of time and cost of 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, responsibility of the parents for the court-ordered support of others, the reasonable debts and liabilities of each child and parent, and any other factors the court may deem relevant.
The Guidelines define net income as "gross income minus income taxes, mandatory union dues, mandatory retirement, previously ordered child support orders, and when appropriate a theoretical child support obligation for other dependents."
What is included in the New Jersey Child Support Guidelines:
The Guidelines include the child's share of expenses for housing, food, clothing, transportation, entertainment, un-reimbursed health care up to and including $250 per child per year, and other miscellaneous items.
The Court may also add other expenses into the Guidelines such as child care expenses, health insurance for the child, predictable and recurring unreimbursed health care expenses, and other expenses approved by the Court. These expenses will be included prior to a final calculation and will be allocated in the support amount in proportion to the parties' income.
Adjustments to the Guidelines calculation:
Adjustments may be made to the Child Support calculations for other legal dependents of either parent, other child support orders, government benefits paid to or for the child, and adjustments for parenting time. Adjustments for parenting time are made because as a child spends more or less time with the non-custodial parent, his/her costs for the child will increase or decrease and the custodial parent's costs will change as well.
Effect of the child's age:
The Child Support Guidelines average the cost of raising a child from birth to 17 years of age. In fact, it is less expensive to raise an infant than it is to raise a teenager. Therefore, there is the assumption that a surplus builds in the younger years to support the child in the later years. If a child support Order is not entered before the child is twelve years old, the child support calculated by the Guidelines is in fact too low to support the child. Therefore, if the child support is first calculated when a child is twelve or older, the Guidelines should be adjusted upward by 14.6%.
Although the Guidelines average the cost of raising a child from birth through 17 years of age, they may be applied to children above the age of 18 as long as those children are still in high school or attending a similar secondary educational institution.
Once a child attends college, the Guidelines are no longer applicable because there are many duplicate expenditures between the Guidelines and costs associated with college (e.g. room, board, transportation). However, if the child attends college but continues to live at home, the court does have the discretion to apply the Guidelines in determining support.
Imputation of income:
If the Court finds that a parent is without just cause, voluntarily unemployed or underemployed, it may impute income to that parent when determining the support required under the Guidelines. The Court may impute income to a party using either that party's former income or the average the N.J. Department of Labor Wage Statistics as income to a party.
Reasons to deviate from the Guidelines:
The Guidelines are a rebuttable presumption and the Court may deviate from the Guidelines for certain reasons. These reasons include, but are not limited to, special needs of the children, one household having more than six children, unreimbursed medical expenses of either parent, and educational expenses of the children. If the Court does deviate from the Guidelines, that deviation must be stated in writing in the Court's Order or on the Child Support Guidelines worksheet.
The Child Support Guidelines are based on the presumption that the child/children live in only one household. If the child/children spend the equivalent of 2 or more overnights per week in the non-custodial parent's household (104 overnights), the Court may determine that a shared parenting arrangement has occurred. For the Court to find that there is a shared parenting arrangement, the "non-custodial" parent must exercise at least 104 overnights and the parties must file a Parenting Plan with the Court that sets the parenting time and responsibilities for each parent.
If the Court determines that there is a shared parenting situation, it may use the Shared Parenting Guidelines. Unlike the Sole Parenting Guidelines, the Shared Parenting Guidelines are not presumptive, and instead are subject to the discretion of the Court. This means that the Court has more discretion to deviate from the Shared Parenting Guidelines than it does from the Sole Parenting Guidelines.
If you need legal assistance with the New Jersey Child Support Guidelines, contact one of our family law attorneys to schedule a consultation. Call 1.800.864.6652.