Child Support & Related Matters

In New Jersey, parents are presumptively required to provide for the financial support of their unemancipated children. N.J.S.A. 2A:34-23. The right to child support belongs to the child, and therefore, cannot be waived by either parent. An order regarding child support must be based on an evaluation of the child’s needs and interests.

Generally, in New Jersey, the amount of child support paid is based on the New Jersey Child Support Guidelines, found in Appendix IX of the New Jersey Rules of Court. The Guidelines were developed to provide the court with economic information to assist in the establishment and modification of fair and adequate child support awards.

The philosophy of the Child Support Guidelines as provided in the Appendix is (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.

The Child Support Guidelines attempt to simulate the percentage of parental net income that is expended on children in intact families. Even though the Appendix to the Guidelines acknowledges that expenditures of two households that are separated or divorced are different than an intact family unit, it states that children should not be forced to live in poverty because of a family interruption and should be given the same opportunities as intact families with similar financial means.

Child support as calculated by the Guidelines include the child’s share of expenses for housing, food, clothing, transportation, entertainment, unreimbursed health care up to and including $250 per child per year, and miscellaneous items. Specific items included in each category are set forth in the Appendix. The fact that a family does not incur a specific expense in a consumption category is not a basis for a deviation from the child support guidelines.

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 predictable and recurring expenses approved by the Court, such as private elementary or secondary education, special needs of gifted or disabled children, and visitation transportation expenses.
The following factors may require an adjustment to the payer parent’s basic child support obligation: (1) Other legal dependents; (2) Child support orders for other children; (3) Social Security benefits paid to or for the child; and (4) Number of overnights exercised by each parent.

The Child Support Guidelines are only intended to apply to cases where the parties have a combined total household net income in excess of $180 per week up to a cap of $3,600 per week. In households with combined net incomes in excess of this threshold, the Child Support Guidelines will be only part of the equation as the Court must supplement the child support award with a discretionary amount based upon the factors set forth in N.J.S.A. 2A:34-23.

In addition, the Child Support Guidelines only also apply to children who are less than 18 years of age or more than 18 years of age but still attending high school or a similar secondary educational institution. However, the Child Support Guidelines may be applied in the court’s discretion to support for students over 18 years of age who commute to college. Accordingly, the Guidelines shall not be used to determine parental contributions for college or other post-secondary education expenses nor the amount of support for a non-commuting child attending college.

Planning for life after divorce requires an informed, realistic view of child support obligations. Although New Jersey child support statutes and guidelines are extremely detailed and designed to prevent disputes, orders are still dependent on the accuracy and completeness of information provided to the court. The attorneys at Donahue, Hagan, Klein & Weisberg have experience in negotiating, mediating and litigating the intricate details of child support and can provide the necessary advice in this area.

 To request a consultation, please contact us by telephone or email.

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Effective September 14, 2015