Child Support In New Jersey & Monmouth County Expert Guidance
If you are going through a divorce and have children, ensuring the fair and accurate calculation of child support is of critical importance. In certain cases, a guideline formula can be applied to arrive at the appropriate amount of child support. However, numerous facts must first be determined before the guideline formula can be applied. In high income cases, the guideline formula is inapplicable, and child support is largely driven by the budget, lifestyle and other enumerated statutory factors of the children involved. Moreover, in certain cases where the income of the parties would justify a guideline formula, extraordinary circumstances may exist to warrant a deviation from the guideline formula to ensure that the financial needs of the children are properly met.
Income & Earning Potential As A Factor
In the majority of cases where the parties’ combined net annual income is equal to or less than $187,200.00 per year ($3,600.00 per week), the New Jersey Child Support Guidelines will be applied to calculate child support. However, before the Guidelines can be utilized to calculate child support, a number of facts needs to be established. The income of both parties must be determined. If the income of either party is fluctuating or sporadic, averaging the income over a period of time may be appropriate. If one party is not working but is able to obtain gainful employment, income may be imputed to that party based on his or her earning capacity. Any alimony to be paid by one party to the other must also be established before child support can be calculated. Alimony received is counted as income to the recipient in calculating child support and deducted as available income to the payor in calculating child support.
Time Allocation & More
The parenting time schedule must also be determined before child support can be calculated, both in cases where the Child Support Guidelines apply and those cases in which they do not. When the Guidelines are applied, parenting time for support purposes is based on overnights with a parent. For the primary residential parent (the parent with whom the children spend the majority of overnights), the more overnights that parent has with the children, the more child support he or she will receive. Conversely, for the parent of alternate residence (the parent who has less than 50% of annual overnights with the children), the more overnights that parent has, the less child support he or she will pay to the parent of primary residence.
Other relevant facts that should be determined before child support is calculated under the New Jersey Child Support Guidelines, include but are not limited to, the costs for health insurance premiums for the children; the costs for work-related childcare for the children; and any governmental benefits received by the children. Moreover, the Child Support Guidelines increase the basic child support award for those children over the age of 12.
In cases where the parties’ combined net income exceeds $187,200.00 per year ($3,600.00 net per year), the Child Support Guidelines should first be run to determine a basic support award. However, this basic support award will then be supplemented, taking into account the following factors:
(1) Needs of the child;
(2) Standard of living and economic circumstances of each parent;
(3) All sources of income and assets of each parent;
(4) 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;
(5) Need and capacity of the child for education, including higher education;
(6) Age and health of the child and each parent;
(7) Income, assets and earning ability of the child;
(8) Responsibility of the parents for the court-ordered support of others;
(9) Reasonable debts and liabilities of each child and parent; and
(10) Any other factors the court may deem relevant.
If the combined income of you and your spouse exceeds $187,200.00 net per year, it is important to address with your attorney, early on, the budget for your children. You should begin to prepare a detailed budget, setting forth the specific expenses for your children based on the lifestyle they enjoyed during the marriage.
In certain cases where the parties’ combined net income does not exceed the Child Support Guidelines, the judge may, nonetheless, deviate from the Guidelines due to extraordinary circumstances. This could happen, for example, in a case involving a special needs child with uncustomary expenses. You should discuss with your attorney any exceptional circumstances in your case, which may warrant a deviation from the Guidelines.
Every case involving the support of children is unique and merits thorough analysis of the specific facts and circumstances involved. Clients should work closely with their attorney early on in the case to ensure that the children’s financial needs are fully met and fairly apportioned.