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Can I Agree to Waive Child Support?

Couples who are splitting up can decide many different issues between themselves. For example, they can agree how to divide marital assets and marital debts, as well as whether one spouse will pay the other alimony. Giving couples this power helps promote cooperation and negotiation. It also makes things easier for the state’s court system, which can avoid being burdened with endless disputes over who gets the family car.

However, child support is an area in which a divorcing couple does not have the final say. Instead, child support belongs to the child and not to his or her parents—so parents are not able to legally waive child support. Nor can parents use child support payments as a bargaining chip by, for example, waiving visitation rights in exchange for relief from child support. Instead, a judge will determine how much child support a parent must pay based on a variety of factors.

Why Children Have a Right to Child Support

Some clients are confused about why they can not waive child support. Often, they do not understand exactly why children have rights to financial support from each parent.

For starters, some parents see child support as punishment or as a payment in exchange for visitation. It is neither of these things. Instead, children have a right to enjoy the benefits of their parents’ incomes. They would have this right if their parents were still married, and they do not lose this right simply because parents have decided to divorce and one parent moves out of the home.

Furthermore, New Jersey has an interest in not having children rely on government support because of poverty. By forcing parents to financially support their children, the state does not have to pay benefits to single parents.

How Child Support is Calculated

The state of New Jersey gives judges detailed guidance for calculating child support payments. Principally, the court will rely on the following factors:

  • Each parent’s income
  • Number of children
  • The parental obligations of each parent, such as number of overnight visits
  • The costs of childcare and healthcare expenses

These guidelines apply to parents with combined incomes between $8,840 to $187,200 a year but do not apply to families with more than six children.

The Court’s Discretion

Judges tend to strictly follow the guidelines. However, in some situations, they can depart from them, as when the parents have very low or very high incomes, or other extenuating circumstances such as disability. A court will consider the following factors:

  • The child’s financial needs
  • The child’s age and health
  • Each parent’s economic circumstances
  • Each parent’s financial resources and obligations
  • Each parent’s earning capacity, including skills, training, education, and work experience
  • The child’s needs for education, including higher education
  • If the child is older, his or her earning capacity
  • Other factors

Speak with a Family Law Attorney in New Jersey

Elena K. Weitz, attorney at law, has over a decade of experience in New Jersey divorce law. She has used her detailed knowledge of state law to help parents secure child support orders that work for them and their families. To schedule a consultation with Attorney Weitz, please contact her today.