Child support for minor children is defined as the payment that a non-custodial parent is ordered to make as support for the costs of raising his or her child/children (hereinafter just referred to as “child”). The financial assistance is provided by the parent who does not have physical custody of his or her child, so that that particular parent’s income does not benefit the child on a daily basis. The child support may be court-ordered, or voluntary, and may be set forth through a divorce decree or a separate order. Sometimes, if child support is ordered, but not paid timely, or at all, state agencies may intervene forcing the payment of child support. In the case where divorce has occurred, but both parents have full, or joint custody, in most cases there is no child support involved. If you have questions about child custody or divorce you should contact a family law attorney in Short Hills for assistance in answering your questions. A top NJ attorney will be happy to work with you to answer all of your legal questions.
Technically, the duty to support a minor child rests with both parents, even if the custodial parent has the means to care for the child on their own. But, the support that is provided from the non-custodial parent not only pays for the child’s basic needs but allows the child to share in the standard of living both parents enjoy.
The awards or decrees for child support is made by each state’s family court system and are based not on the non-custodial parent’s ability to pay, but, always what is in the best interest of the child. To render a decree that is in the best interest of the child, there are variables that are taken into consideration as you will see discussed below.
How is child support calculated?
The child support amount varies from state to state and is calculated by using a formula of various indicators such as family income and how much time each parent will spend with the child. This current formula, or “Child Support Guidelines,” was developed by economists at the request of the Supreme Court of New Jersey, who were striving to come up with a plan for uniform and fair child support awards throughout the state. There is often “wiggle room” in the case of extreme income situations in order to make the child custody award equitable.
The standard guidelines cited above do not apply to families with more than six children, or, for children who are no longer minors (over the age of 18), or attending college away from home.
Child support encompasses a variety of expenses – these are some of the expenses covered by the “Child Support Guidelines” cited above:
- Shelter and shelter-related costs.
- Variable costs such as transportation and food for the child.
- Controlled costs such as clothing, personal care, some entertainment, and other miscellaneous expenses.
- Medical expenses up to the first $250.00 of unreimbursed medical expenses per year, per child.
- Predictable recurring expenses such as work-related child care; health insurance (the marginal cost of adding a child to a health insurance plan); and predictable, recurring, unreimbursed health care expenses (in excess of the first $250 per child, per year).
The amount for child support that is set in a decree, or even just voluntarily, often will be tweaked through the years, depending on circumstances for the custodial ,as well as non-custodial parent. Various factors occurring on behalf of either party could cause them to request an adjustment to the support amount, or, the adjustment could also be as a result of circumstances pertaining to the minor child as well. As to the parents, there may have been an increase or decrease in income which necessitates a change in the custody support amount. In the case of the minor children, the custodial amount may be raised as children mature since older children have more expensive needs than young ones do. Additionally, child support is only paid until the time they are emancipated which could mean several things: they graduate from college, begin working full time, marry, or join the military.
A settlement agreement pertaining to child support may request that the non-custodial parent ensure that a life insurance is in place which will cover child support through emancipation in the event of his or her untimely death.
Matrimonial agreements pertaining to child support can be very complex and no two agreements are the same, thus, it is advisable for each parent to consult with an attorney to get any and all disagreements out of the way and work together for the good of their offspring. If you need to get a handle on what child custody will entail, don’t hesitate to contact a family law attorney in Short Hills, New Jersey for a consultation regarding your particular situation.