Am I Entitled To Child Support, And If So, How Much? As Seen in the Atlantic County Women’s Journal (Nov 2003)
Jan L. Bernstein, Esq.
In New Jersey, both parents have an obligation to financially support children. Child support is generally calculated by using the Child Support Guidelines, and over and above the Guidelines with factors set forth by statute.
What are the Child Support Guidelines? Essentially, the Guidelines are a mathematical equation into which different variables (e.g., the family’s income; the number and age of the children; the costs of medical insurance coverage for the children, etc.) are factored. The end result of the equation is the amount of child support that is payable generally to the parent who has the children in his or her residential custody for a majority of time. The amount of support is then apportioned to each parent according to his or her respective incomes.
There are two alternate Guidelines calculations. The first is called the “Sole Parenting” Worksheet. Sole Parenting Worksheets apply in scenarios where one parent has primary residential custody of the child or children, meaning basically, when one parent has the child residing with him or her for a majority of time. In cases where each parent has the child for substantial blocks of time, and various financial circumstances are present, the Shared Parenting Worksheet may apply. As the name would suggest, Shared Parenting calculations are appropriate where the parents incur certain expenses for the children more evenly than if one parent had the children for appreciably less time than the other.
An Overview of Certain Key Points Concerning The Guidelines
Some key points to keep in mind about the Guidelines are as follows:
Extreme Income Situations: The Guidelines make allowances for parents with extreme income situations, such as a very high or very low income. For example, for families with a combined net income of above $150,800 per year, the Guidelines direct courts to look at other considerations such as a child’s needs and lifestyle. These factors, weighed in tandem with a parent’s ability to pay, guide the court in determining if the Guidelines amount of child support should be supplemented;
- Medical Insurance and Unreimbursed Medical Expenses: The costs of a child’s medical insurance coverage and unreimbursed medical costs also are added to the child support award;
- Extracurricular Activities: Certain extracurricular costs are included into the child support award. Other “extraordinary” costs such as camp or a program for gifted children would be added to the child support amount;
- Age of the Child or Children: The Guidelines assume that it is more expensive to raise an older child then a younger child. As such, the child support award is adjusted upward under certain circumstances for children age 12-17; and
- Parenting Time: The Sole Parenting Worksheets give a credit against a parent’s child support obligation for the overnights that parents spend with a child even where the parenting time schedule does not amount to a Shared Parenting Schedule.
Duration of a Child Support Obligation
When does child support end? Generally, a child support obligation ends when a child is emancipated. However, there is no set age in New Jersey for the emancipation of a child. For example, the child does not automatically become emancipated at age 18 or 21. Instead, there are a series of factors determinative of whether a child is emancipated, including but not limited to: Is he or she going to college; working full-time; married? Therefore, even though the Guidelines do not contemplate support for children above the age of 17, a parent’s child support obligation does not necessarily end there. ( For an overview of a parent’s obligation to pay for college in New Jersey, see our article “Who Pays for School.”)
This article is only a summary of the main considerations in calculating child support in New Jersey. There are many other factors and circumstances that effect the amount of child support a parent must pay. To have a specific discussion about whether the Guidelines apply to you and your family, consult with an attorney who specializes in family law.