When a couple divorces in the state of New Jerseyand there are children involved a family law attorney can help them understand how child support will be determined. There are several factors which are used to determine how much child support will be paid and to whom. In New Jersey supporting the children is the continuous duty of both of the parents. This duty will continue until a court order states otherwise or the children are emancipated. If one of the parents desires to terminate their obligation to pay child support they are required to file a petition with the court. Unless this is done child support is the obligation of both parents based on their level of income, their ability to earn an income and their assets.
The NJ guidelines include several different expenses such as housing, clothing, food, and transportation costs. It also includes entertainment as well as un-reimbursed health care costs up to $250 for each child for each year along with various miscellaneous items. Depending on the unique situation involving each child the Court can also add a wide variety of other expenses to the Guidelines. For instance, some situations may have recurring health care costs that should be calculated, insurance and any other types of ongoing support issues. All of the expenses regarding each individual child will be included in the calculations and then the total will be determined in proportion to the parent’s income capabilities.
There are situations that require some adjustments to the standard Guidelines be made. Adjustments to child support calculations can occur because of other legal dependents that either parent has or if either parent has other standing orders for child support. There may also be changes if the child is receiving government benefits. And actual parenting time may be added into the calculations and final adjustments made. This adjustment is a factor that may be unique to each circumstance as the child may spend more or less time with the parent who does not have custody. This will factor in so that both the custodial and non-custodial parent’s costs are unique to the situation.
The New Jersey Child Support Guidelines are based on the average cost of raising a child from the time of birth to 17. Even though it is more expensive to raise a teenager than an infant, the assumption is that when averaged out the surplus that is received in the early years balances out with the latter years. In cases where there has not been a child support order before the child is 12, support is actually too low. For cases involving children 12 or above there is an upward adjustment of 14.6% to compensate. Children above 18 do not receive child support unless they are still in high school or its equivalent. The Guidelines are not applicable once the child enters college. However, if the child continues to live in the home of the parent the Court has the discretion to determine support if it is deemed appropriate.
There are times when the Court may deviate from the established Guidelines. There can be many reasons such as special needs of the child (ren), when one household has more than 6 children, educational expenses related to the child, or unreimbursed medical expenses of either of the parents. These are not limiting factors as the Court can determine that there are extenuating circumstances that justify deviating from the Guidelines. If the Court chooses to deviate from the NJ Guidelines, it must be clearly stated in writing in the Court Order or on the worksheet where child support was calculated.