NJ Child Support: A Truly Comprehensive Guide

If you’re already divorced, or getting a divorce in NJ and have kids, child support is an understandably major concern for you.

This guide is designed to give you a thorough understanding of the NJ child support process, so you can start planning now or respond to existing child support issues.

It’s important for parents to remember that NJ child support is a legal obligation. Not paying child support, either intentionally or through negligence, can have serious consequences, such as wage garnishment or even jail time.

NJ Courts calculate child support based on a set of guidelines that consider several factors. These include the parents’ income, the number of children involved, and the amount of time each parent spends with the children, among others.

However, the process of calculating and obtaining child support in NJ can be complex. So, it is important to have a thorough understanding of the process and your rights.

Also, NJ child support can be modified as time goes on. Either the needs of the child(ren) change, situations change, or one ex-spouse is not holding up their end of the agreement. In these cases, there is a process to change the agreement, or otherwise get the court involved to make the situation right.

This guide will provide an in-depth and comprehensive overview of NJ child support.

We will cover topics such as how it is calculated, what factors influence the amount of child support, and how to obtain or modify a child support order in NJ.

The guide is broken down into sections, with each section going a bit deeper on the topic it covers. If you really need to get into a particular topic, there are linked articles in each section that specifically cover topics in depth.

Finally, there is no sugar-coating the fact that child support in NJ can be complicated and stressful. At times it may seem like the perfect storm of money, your children, and dealing with your ex-spouse. That is unfortunately, normal.

This guide is here to help you.

But, if you really need a compassionate family law attorney who is not only an expert at child support, but also cares about you as a family, schedule your free consultation with us today.

An Overview of NJ Child Support

The long and the short of NJ child support is, when parents separate, The State of New Jersey wants to ensure that affected children receive the proper resources to grow up in a safe and nurturing environment.

In other words, the Court will often default to decisions made in the best interests of the child(ren).

Under NJ child support laws, both parents are responsible for financially supporting their children. Just like they would if the divorce never happened. This support is necessary to pay for all costs associated with raising a child, including school, clothing, food, shelter, and medical care.

Explained a different way, if both parents remained together and the divorce never happened, they would be pooling both their incomes to take care of the family. The Court wants to preserve that.

In most cases, the court will make one parent the custodial parent (who the child primarily lives with) and the other as the non-custodial parent (who the child does not primarily live with).

In this arrangement, the non-custodial parent usually pays child support to the custodial parent.

There are other situations that can further complicate child support, which we will get into.

Unfortunately, child support often turns into a much bigger issue, and coming to a workable agreement can be hard. Especially when the consequences of not paying can be jail or wage garnishment.

In some cases, problems arise when the custodial parent asks the non-custodial parent to pay a larger than expected sum of money. In other cases, the custodial parent may seek legal action against the non-custodial parent if they pay too little support or refuse to pay anything at all.

When issues like this occur, it helps to have an experienced NJ child support attorney by your side.

Now, let’s get into how NJ child support is calculated and handled.

How Child Support is Calculated in NJ

In a nutshell, NJ child support is calculated using a formula that considers both parents’ gross income, certain allowable deductions, and the number of children involved.

The formula provides a basic child support obligation, which is the amount of child support that the non-custodial parent must pay to the custodial parent to cover the child’s basic needs.

As we’ve covered so far, how this all works is far more complex than a few paragraphs can explain.

Let’s get into it.

Understanding the NJ Child Support Guidelines

When it comes time to calculate exactly how much money a parent needs to contribute to the support of their child(ren), the Courts reach for the NJ Child Support Guidelines.

The guidelines are a comprehensive “method” that the Court uses to make their support calculations and they are based on economists’ estimates of what intact (non-divorced) families spend on their children in NJ.

This estimate process is more formally known as the Income Shares Method, which is the concept that a child should benefit from the same proportion of parental income that they would have enjoyed if their parents continued to live together. Essentially, it believes that children are entitled to share in the current income of both parents.

Here’s a very simple example:

Parent A has an income of $60,000 per year.

Parent B has an income of $40,000 per year.

Together, they represent $100,000 per year worth of income, of which Parent A is responsible for 60% and Parent B is responsible for 40%.

In a shared parenting arrangement, Parent A is therefore responsible for 60% of child support ordered while Parent B is responsible for their 40%.

Again, that is a very simple example and reality is never quite that easy.

Keep in mind, the Court can deviate from the guidelines, awarding a higher or lower amount than specifically called for. This typically happens when the strictly-calculated amount is not appropriate to the actual situation being evaluated.

For instance, if a child is special needs and requires additional medical care, that expense needs to be accounted for in the final child support order. Otherwise the child is not receiving the appropriate share of their parent’s support.

We will get into deviating from the guidelines more below.

Calculating Child Support According to NJ Child Support Guidelines

As we discussed above, In New Jersey, child support is initially calculated by adding up both parent’s income and dividing it proportionally to their respective incomes according to the child support guidelines.

So what counts as income? How does the Court determine this?

Read on to find out.

Financial Disclosures and Income

Before discussing child support orders with the Court, both parent’s are required to fill out a Case Information Statement (commonly referred to as a “CIS”). You very likely already completed this as part of your divorce process, and that will be used for the initial child support order.

The CIS contains all of your income, debts, assets, etc. and gives the Court a comprehensive view of your financial situation. The Court will use this information as the primary facts for calculating child support obligations.

While it may seem like a clever idea to conceal information on the CIS, especially if you are the higher-earning spouse facing a more substantial cost, there are heavy legal consequences for doing so.

That CIS is considered “sworn testimony” before the court, and you will sign a disclosure stating that the document is accurate and complete. So intentionally lying on that document is illegal and being caught doing so can have painful consequences.

Simple mistakes, on the other hand, are typically not an issue and can be corrected without a problem.

There are seven parts to a CIS: (CREATE CIS BLOG POST)

Part A – Personal Information

In this section, you’ll provide basic information about you, your spouse, your marriage, and your case. This includes names, addresses, dates of birth, the date you were married, details on your separation, children, etc.

Part B – Miscellaneous Information

In this section, you will be providing information about your employment, if you have medical insurance, etc.

There is also a section for attaching any prior/pending legal matters involving custody, child support, domestic violence, etc.

Part C – Income

Part C is a detailed section where you will list all income for both you and your spouse (from the previous calendar year). This section includes W2 statements, tax returns, paystubs, commissions/bonus structures, etc.

This section also includes itemizing any deductions from your pay for pensions, taxes, health insurance, Medicare, etc. and itemizing any unearned income from all sources (disability, social security, interest, stock dividends, etc.)

The final part of this section is a series of questions on how your income is earned and distributed.

Part D – Monthly Expenses

Like Part C, Part D is very detailed and addresses your monthly expenses.

Often, Part D is the most important section on the CIS because it determines the actual cost of your (and your children’s) current lifestyle. That cost will be then be divided into the necessary support to maintain that lifestyle.

These costs are broken into three sub-parts:

– Shelter Expenses

Rental or mortgage payments, utilities, homeowners insurance, maintenance, snow removal, property taxes, internet/cable, etc.

– Transportation Expenses

Loan or car payments, gas and fuel, vehicle maintenance, registration fees, car insurance, etc.

– Personal Expenses

Food and household supplies, sports and hobbies, gifts, daycare expenses, medical care, savings and investments, vacations, etc.

Part E – Assets and Liabilities

The first section of Part E is where you explain all assets related to your marriage such as bank accounts, pension plans, 401ks, savings accounts, stocks, bonds, real estate, timeshares, etc.

The second section details all liabilities (debts) such as mortgages, lines of credit, short-term debts, medical bills, student loans, etc.

Part F – Statement of Special Problems

This section is where you can explain any special circumstances involving your case, such as long-term medical issues, valuable business shares, etc.

Part G – Attachments

This final section is a checklist of sorts to help you make sure all the required documentation is attached to the CIS.

With the completed CIS in hand, the Court can go about determining just how much support is needed to maintain a similar lifestyle for the children involved, and who is responsible for what proportion of it.

For the purposes of calculations, the Court uses a Combined Net Weekly Income model which they calculated based on the completed CIS.

That Combined Net Weekly Income is then used against the Basic Child Support Award Schedule (Appendix IX-F) to determine the initial support required.

Exceptions for high-income families

According to N.J.S.A. 2A:34-23, New Jersey defines high-income families as those that make over $187,200 annually. Generally, individuals with high incomes have unique expenses and a higher level of spending.

To adjust for these additional costs, NJ child support courts will use Appendix IX-A to determine the base child support level. Next, they will look at financial disclosures and other documents to calculate any supplemental income needed to ensure the child maintains the same living standards.

For example, the court may request supplemental support to pay for:

  • Private schooling
  • Daycare and summer camps
  • Sports and hobbies
  • Vacations

Which Parent Receives Child Support

We’ve already established that NJ parents must provide support for their children, and we’ve covered how the related income is shown to the Court…

But who actually gets the money?

As with most other things involving the Court, there are forms to figure it all out.

Sole Parenting

In cases where the child lives with only the custodial parent (100% of their nights spent with one parent), the NJ child support court will use Appendix IX-C, Sole Parenting Worksheet to calculate each parent’s net weekly income. Using these numbers, the court will determine the weekly payment amount using Appendix IX-F, Schedule of Child Support Awards.

For a hypothetical example, if two parents have one child and jointly earn $1,000 per week, then the non-custodial parent must pay $233 in child support each week. If these parents had two children, the non-custodial parent would pay $257 per week.

While other factors affect the amount owed, you can use Appendix IX-F to see ballpark estimates given your expected joint income level.

Shared Parenting

If the child(ren) spend the equivalent of two or more overnights per week (excluding vacations) and have separate living accommodations at the other parent’s home, then the Shared Parenting Worksheet (Appendix IX-D) is used.

Health Insurance and Child Care

Health insurance and child care costs are significant expenses that are also considered when calculating childcare support.

In New Jersey, if a parent pays for the child’s health insurance, the cost is typically divided between the parents in proportion to their income. This means that if one parent is paying for health insurance, the other parent may still be responsible for a portion of these costs.

The costs include premiums and other out-of-pocket expenses not covered by insurance, such as co-pays and deductibles.

Similarly, work-related child care expenses are also factored into the child support calculation.

If the custodial parent needs to pay for child care due to work or school, those expenses will generally be added to the basic child support amount. The court recognizes that child care is a necessary expense for working parents, and it’s only fair that both parents contribute to these costs.

Other Factors

Aside from the factors mentioned above, the court may also consider other relevant factors in determining child support.

These may include, but are not limited to, the child’s age and health, each parent’s earning capacity, the need for and cost of education or vocational training, and the parents’ debts and financial responsibilities. Each case is unique, and the court aims to make a decision that is in the best interest of the child involved.

Modifying Child Support in New Jersey

Change is a part of life. Circumstances evolve, sometimes predictably, sometimes not. These changes may impact a child’s needs or a parent’s ability to meet those needs.

In such cases, the original child support order may no longer serve the best interest of the child(ren).

It’s important for parents to understand how the process of modifying child support in NJ works, ensuring that the child’s welfare remains paramount.

This section will guide you through the process of changing child support orders, detailing the necessary conditions and steps involved.

Understanding the Need for Modification

Child support in NJ, like in any other state, is not set in stone. It can be modified when a significant change in circumstances occurs. But what counts as a ‘significant change’?

Essentially, it refers to a substantial shift in the situation since the time the original child support order was issued.

Changes that may justify a modification include a considerable increase or decrease in either parent’s income, a job loss, retirement, or the onset of a disability. On the child’s side, a significant change in the child’s needs or a shift in the child’s living arrangements could also lead to a modification.

One crucial aspect to remember is that the change must be substantial and ongoing.

Minor fluctuations or temporary changes, such as a brief period of unemployment or a small increase or decrease in salary, are typically not considered sufficient for modifying child support in NJ.

The Steps to Request a Modification

Requesting a modification to a child support order in New Jersey involves a specific process.

It begins with the parent seeking the change filing a motion with the court. This legal document must clearly state the change in circumstances and explain how this change impacts the existing child support order.

Supporting this motion with appropriate documentation is critical. If a parent has lost their job, evidence of this change, such as a termination letter or proof of unemployment benefits, should be included.

If the child’s needs have significantly changed, medical records or school reports can be provided to support the claim.

After filing the motion, the other parent gets the opportunity to respond. They can either agree with the modification or contest it. If they disagree, they must provide their reasons and any evidence they have to support their position.

Following these steps, the court will schedule a hearing. This is the platform where both parents can present their case. The judge will review the evidence, listen to the arguments, and make a decision based on the best interests of the child.

How the Court Decides

When making a decision about modifying child support in NJ, the court’s primary concern is the best interests of the child.

They will evaluate the evidence provided, considering the magnitude and permanence of the change in circumstances. They will also assess whether the change impacts the child’s needs or the paying parent’s ability to provide support.

The court will take into account the same factors used in the original child support calculation, such as each parent’s income, the child’s needs, and the amount of time each parent spends with the child. They will also consider any new factors introduced since the original order.

If the court agrees that a modification is warranted, it will issue a new child support order.

This order will replace the original one and will remain in effect until the child reaches the age of majority or another modification is granted.

When to Seek Legal Advice

Navigating the process of modifying child support in NJ can be complex. It involves understanding legal procedures, preparing documentation, and presenting arguments effectively.

While it’s possible to do this on your own, having legal representation can make the process smoother and increase the chances of a successful outcome.

An experienced attorney can provide valuable advice tailored to your specific circumstances. They can guide you through the process, help prepare the necessary documents, and represent you during the hearing. They can also provide insight into how courts typically handle similar cases, giving you a clearer idea of what to expect.

Facing a child support order modification? Take advantage of our free consultation right here.

Modifications and Enforcement

Another essential aspect to understand about modifying child support in NJ is the enforcement of the orders.

Once a child support order is issued—whether it’s the original order or a modified one—it’s legally binding. Non-compliance can lead to serious consequences, including wage garnishment, interception of tax refunds, suspension of licenses, and even jail time.

If you’re struggling to make payments under the current child support order, it’s crucial to act promptly. Don’t wait until you’re behind on payments.

The sooner you file a motion for modification, the better. Remember, child support is about ensuring the child’s needs are met. If your circumstances have changed and you’re finding it difficult to meet your obligation, seeking a modification is a responsible course of action.

Enforcing Child Support in New Jersey

Just as important as understanding how child support in NJ is calculated and modified, is comprehending how it’s enforced.

After all, a child support order is only useful if it is adhered to.

This section discusses the enforcement of child support orders in New Jersey, detailing the mechanisms in place to ensure compliance and the consequences of non-compliance.

Ensuring Compliance with Child Support Orders

The State of New Jersey takes child support obligations very seriously.

After a child support order is issued, it’s not just an agreement between the parents; it’s a legal obligation that the state can enforce. The New Jersey Child Support Program helps ensure that children receive the financial support they need and deserve from both parents.

If the parent responsible for paying child support fails to comply with the order, the New Jersey Child Support Program has several enforcement tools at its disposal.

These can include income withholding, where child support payments are deducted directly from the paying parent’s wages, unemployment benefits, or workers’ compensation benefits.

Other enforcement measures can include intercepting federal and state tax refunds, lottery winnings, or other government benefits like stimulus checks. The non-compliant parent can also have their driver’s, professional, or recreational licenses suspended until they comply with the order.

In addition to all that, a parent who fails to pay child support can be held in contempt of court, which can lead to fines or warrant being issued for their arrest.

It’s important to note that these consequences are not meant to be punitive but are designed to ensure the child receives the support they need. The goal is always to secure the best interests of the child.

Is your former spouse behind on child support? Are they refusing to pay hoping you’ll just let it go? Let’s talk.

What to Do If You’re Struggling to Pay

Life can throw curveballs, and you may find yourself struggling to meet your child support obligations.

If this happens, it’s important to act promptly. The worst thing you can do is ignore the problem. Remember, child support orders do not change or go away just because you’re unable to pay.

If you’re having trouble making payments, it’s advisable to seek a modification of your child support order as soon as possible. As discussed in the previous section, if your circumstances have significantly changed, the court may adjust your child support obligation.

While you’re waiting for the court to consider your modification request, try to pay what you can. Showing the court that you’re making an effort to meet your obligations can go a long way.

Understanding the Termination of Child Support in New Jersey

Child support in NJ, like in any state, is not a lifetime obligation. It generally ends when the child reaches a certain age or achieves a specific life milestone.

This section explores the termination of child support in New Jersey, providing a comprehensive understanding of when and why child support ends, and the steps involved in this process.

When Does Child Support End?

In New Jersey, the legal age of majority is 18. However, child support does not automatically end when a child turns 18. Instead, child support typically continues until the child turns 19.

But there are exceptions to this rule.

For instance, child support may continue past the age of 19 if the child is still in high school, attending full-time college or vocational school, or has a physical or mental disability that existed prior to the age of 19 and requires continued support.

However, in no case does child support in NJ continue past the age of 23, except for special circumstances such as a child with severe disabilities.

Read about changes to New Jersey Child Support when your child has a driver’s license.

Attorney Note: In 2016, lawmakers made significant changes to New Jersey Child Support laws. Read about those changes here.

Requesting a Continuation of Child Support

If a child falls into one of the categories that allow for child support to continue past the age of 19, the parent receiving child support must file a request with the court.

This request should provide a valid reason for the continuation, such as proof of enrollment in college or vocational school or documentation of a disability.

It’s important to note that the court will not automatically continue child support; the parent must make a specific request. If no request is made, child support will end when the child turns 19.

Do parents need to pay for a child’s college education?

As we stated above, parents must take care of their children until they are emancipated. Sometimes, children are still financially dependent on their parents despite attending college or other similar programs. In cases like this, NJ child support courts may require parents to pay for the child’s basic needs.

However, there is no singular rule that states parents must pay for a college education, in all cases. Instead, the court will need to review each parent’s income, involvement in college planning, and other factors to determine if the non-custodial parent owes additional support.

Read more: Divorced NJ Parents and College Tuition for Supported Children

Terminating Child Support Early

In some cases, child support in NJ may end before the child turns 19.

This could happen if the child gets married, joins the military, or becomes financially independent. In these cases, the parent paying child support can file a request with the court to terminate the child support order.

The court will review the request and the circumstances. If the court agrees that the child is emancipated—that is, no longer dependent on their parents for support—it will issue an order terminating child support.

The Process for Termination

The termination of child support in New Jersey generally involves a formal process. Whether child support is ending due to the child’s age or because of emancipation, the parent seeking termination must notify the court.

In situations where the child support order is set to terminate automatically when the child turns 19, the state’s child support agency will typically send a Notice of Child Support Termination to both parents approximately six months before the child’s 19th birthday.

If the receiving parent believes that child support should continue, they must respond to this notice with a request for continuation. If they do not respond, the child support order will end automatically.

After Termination

Once child support is terminated, the obligation to make payments ends.

However, if there are any arrears—that is, unpaid child support—those must still be paid. Termination of child support does not erase any past-due child support.

Don’t Go It Alone

Navigating child support in NJ can be a challenging journey, but remember, you’re not alone.

Whether you’re just beginning or nearing the end, each step is a testament to your commitment to your child’s well-being. This journey may be complex, but the goal is simple and profound: your child’s future.

Understanding the system is a powerful tool. It empowers you to advocate effectively for your child, whether you’re the one receiving or paying child support. However, complexities can arise, and it’s okay to seek help.

An excellent NJ child support attorney can guide you through each step, offering clarity, solutions, and peace of mind.

Child support is more than a financial obligation; it’s about providing for your child’s needs, ensuring their future.

If you’re facing challenges with child support in NJ, reach out. You don’t have to face it alone.

Contact my office today for a free consultation.

Get your questions answered. Find some peace of mind.

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