When a child is brought into the world, the child does not ask for it, and does not have the ability to care for him or herself. Child support is critical, New Jersey protects children, both physically, as well as financially. Every child brought into the world should be cared for, feel safe, warm, and loved. This is where child support comes into play, especially when one parent is not financially contributing to the child’s support. Please note though, even if you do not want a parent’s support, the money is not for you, it is for the child (put it into a trust if you do not want it for the child’s 18th birthday).
Child support cases may arise at any time after parents separate. Upon separation, parents may arrange for either parent to be a primary parent of residence (custodial parent, as opposed to a non-custodial parent) or share residential custody.
In determining child support, New Jersey Courts will always keep the minor child’s best interest in mind if the parents cannot determine suitable arrangements (see child custody article for more information).
In determining how much money the non-custodial parent has to pay the custodial parent to help support the child, New Jersey courts use a “Shared Income Model.” The Shared Income Model is centered around the idea that any child whose parents are no longer living together should still receive the same financial support as if both parents were still living together. To determine the amount of child support that needs to be paid under this model, the New Jersey courts add up both parents’ net incomes, taking into consideration the amount of overnights both parents have with the child. Depending on the number of overnights, the court may use the “sole parenting worksheet” or the “shared parenting worksheet.”
To determine what each parent’s net income is, the court looks at multiple things. First, the court determines each parent’s gross income. Gross income is determined by adding up all of each parent’s earned and unearned income. These include what the make yearly at their job (before taxes are deducted), any tips they receive, any bonuses they receive, any income they make from their own business if they have one, any money they make from selling personal property, any money made from investments, Social Security payments, disability payments, etc. The calculation takes into account taxes, any alimony that must be paid, any existing child support obligations, other dependents, etc. After these deductions are made, we are left with each parent’s net income.
If the “obligor” or parent paying child support is employed, the court may garnish that parents wages directly. Please keep in mind, most courts will garnish wages upon request of the “obligee” or the parent receiving the child support. Issues arise when an individual is self-employed. The respective county probation will then enforce child support wage garnishment for the convenience of the obligee.
Imputation of income occurs when a court believes that a either parent should be making more money or can be making more money but is choosing to earn less than what they are able to earn. The court will come up with an income for that parent using a wage compendium, child support decisions will be based on the income “imputed” on either parent by the court. In order for this to happen, the custodial parent must provide proof to the court that the parent has a higher income earning ability, taking into account prior employment, skills, licenses, etc.
Determining Child Support for High Net Worth People
When dealing with determining child support for parents with high incomes, a court must consider the factors set forth in N.J.S.A. § 2A:34-23(a). Those factors include:
(1) The needs of the child;
(2) The standard of living and economic circumstances of each parent;
(3) All sources of income and assets of each parent;
(4)Each parent’s earning ability, 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
What is Covered?
We know child support is the money given from the non-custodial parent to the parent with custody of the child. However, what exactly does the term “child support” cover?
Some costs that are absolutely covered are costs for the child’s basic needs. These costs include the child’s shelter, the child’s food, the child’s transportation, the child’s clothing, and some other costs that are within the basic needs of the child.
There are also costs that are not included in a child support determination. Costs not included are costs that are not a necessity in the child’s life. Some examples of these costs are the cost of attending a private school instead of a public school, the cost of throwing a big party for a birthday, the cost of any sports or programs the child decides he wants to do, or any other costs not essential to the child’s life.
What if the Child Goes to College?
A child who stays home for college will clearly still be expected to be supported by both parents. However, what if the child moves away for college?
The child will still need somewhere to go when on break or during vacation. They need a home, and in that home they must be supported. The court may reconsider based on the amount of days home from school.
Please note that contribution for college cost is separate from child support. In evaluating the claim for contribution toward the cost of higher education, courts should consider all relevant factors, including whether the parent, if still living with the child, would have contributed toward the costs of the requested higher education; the effect of the background, values and goals of the parent on the reasonableness of the expectation of the child for higher education; the amount of the contribution sought by the child for the cost of higher education; the ability of the parent to pay that cost; the relationship of the requested contribution to the kind of school or course of study sought by the child; the financial resources of both parents; and the commitment to and aptitude of the child for the requested education.
When Does it End?
In the State of New Jersey, under N.J.S.A. 2A:17-56.67, child support obligations end when the child turns 19. Under this law, however, child support may continue until the child is 23 years of age in certain cases. Child support may be extended up to 23 years of age if the parents have agreed to continued support. It may also be extended to 23 years of age if the child is still in high school, attending college full-time, is in graduate or vocational school and is still dependent on their parents, if the child is disabled, or if the court orders it.
Child support also ends if the child is considered emancipated. Emancipation occurs when a court deems a child independent from their parents. Children are usually deemed emancipated when they begin working full-time after graduating college, vocational school, or graduate school, when they get married, or when they join the military. The court may also emancipate a child when they are “beyond the sphere of influence” of the residential parent.
In sum, child support is a necessary factor to consider prior to separation. If you are separated and have any questions, please do not hesitate to contact A.Brown Esq. for a free consultation.