NEW JERSEY CHILD SUPPORT LAWYERS
Understanding Child Support Obligations
Child support is a fundamental concept in American society and often considered a principle of natural law. The right to child support belongs to the child. For this reason, the obligation to pay child support to an unemancipated child is a continuous duty imposed upon each parent. Most importantly, neither parent can waive or evade this duty regardless of good or bad faith.
New Jersey Child Support Guidelines
The most important concern in establishing or modifying a child support obligation is always the welfare of the child. The State of New Jersey has established the presumptive New Jersey Child Support Guidelines to calculate child support for modest-income parents. The New Jersey Child Support Guidelines were developed for the purpose of providing courts with economic information to assist in the establishment and modification of fair and adequate child support awards. The New Jersey Child Support Guidelines utilize general economic data on many market indicators, such as household standards of living; consumer expenditure patterns; shelter, food, clothing costs, and transportation; cost-of-living trends; and fixed and variable expenses. Based on this economic data, the New Jersey Child Support Guidelines attempt to simulate the percentage of parental net income spent on children in intact families to calculate child support obligations.
The New Jersey Rules of Court require the court to apply the New Jersey Child Support Guidelines on an application to establish or modify child support except for parents with incomes above the specified high-income threshold. Generally, a child support obligation calculated in accordance with the New Jersey Child Support Guidelines sets the non-custodial parent’s basic child support obligation to the custodial parent. The amount of child support obligation assumes the custodial and non-custodial parent share certain expenses for the children based on their proportional share of income. A basic child support obligation amounts to a weekly payment for the purpose of contributing towards the following expenses for each child:
- Housing Expenses;
- All food, meals, and non-alcoholic beverages;
- Clothing, footwear, diapers, drying cleaning;
- Unreimbursed Health Care costs less than $250 per child;
- Educational Costs; and
- Personal Care Products.
Adjustments to the New Jersey Child Support Guidelines
Although New Jersey Courts are generally required to calculate child support in accordance with the New Jersey Child Support Guidelines, courts can also adjust a basic support obligation. For instance, a court may also increase the amount of child support to contribute towards predictable and recurring expenses related to a child’s transportation, special diet, and private education costs for gifted or handicapped children. A court may adjust the basic child support obligation to account for any of the following:
- Either Parent’s Other Legal Dependents;
- Multiple Family Obligations; or
- Government Benefits paid to or for Children.
Ordinarily, the court will not make any adjustments to a basic child support obligation for unpredictable and non-recurring expenses for a child. A parent who paid an unpredictable or non-recurring expense will usually be entitled to partial reimbursement of special expense from the other parent in proportion to their relative income.
Deviation from the New Jersey Child Support Guidelines
Because the New Jersey Child Support Guidelines are primarily concerned with the welfare of the child and intended for modest income parents, a court may deviate from the New Jersey Child Support Guidelines in the event application of the Child Support Guidelines would be inappropriate. In these cases, the court will look at the following factors to determine establish an appropriate child support obligation:
- The child’s needs;
- Each parent’s standard of living and economic circumstances;
- Each parent’s source(s) of income and assets;
- The childs need and capacity for education;
- The age and health of the child and parents;
- The child’s earning capacity;
- A parent’s court ordered obligation to support others;
- The debts and liabilities of the child and each parent; and
- Any other factors relevant to the court.
A court may deviate from the New Jersey Child Support Guidelines for a variety of reasons. Some of these reasons include the extraordinary earning capacity of one parent, an unemancipated child over the age of 18-years-old who commutes to college resides at college, or an agreement between the parents.
Modification of Child Support
A court can modify, revise, and alter a child support obligation based on a showing of change circumstances since the entry of a prior child support order. There is no bright line for determining when changed circumstances have endured long enough to warrant modification of a support obligation. The parent asking the court to modify child support has the burden of establishing the change of circumstance necessary to increase or decrease child support. The court will compare the parties’ financial situation at the time of the original child support order with the parties financial situation at time of an application to modify the child support order to determine whether change circumstances necessitate a modification of child support. After a parent successfully establishes a change in circumstance, the court will modify child support based on the financial documentation submitted to the court.
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Contact our attorneys for more information and a personal consultation wherein we can help you chart a course and navigate through your child support issues. We have office locations in Atlantic County as well as Burlington County. From these offices, we advocate on behalf of clients residing in Absecon, Brigantine, Egg Harbor City, Egg Harbor Township, Galloway, Hammonton, Linwood, Longport, Margate, Mullica, Northfield, Port Republic, Somers Point, Ventnor, Cherry Hill, Collingswood, Gibbsboro, Haddonfield, Medford, Marlton, Shamong, Tabernacle, Mt. Laurel, and many other surrounding areas.