Child Support: How to get it, change it, and how is it calculated?
Child Support in New Jersey
New Jersey parents have a legal obligation to financially provide for their children. This duty exists regardless of whether a parent intends to maintain a relationship with the child or decides to leave town and never see the child again. In fact, the state will garnish your wages and take other actions if you do not make your mandatory child support payments. Read on for more information about child support in New Jersey.
How do I Establish Child Support?
Child support can be established in a few different ways. Most commonly, parents divorce and the court must enter temporary child support orders that will last for the duration of the divorce process. As part of the divorce, the court will set a final child support order that is meant to last until your child is emancipated.
If the parents have never married, then child support can be initiated as a stand-alone proceeding, if the father admits paternity, or as part of a lawsuit to establish paternity.
How Does the Court Calculate Child Support?
New Jersey provides judges with guidelines to use when calculating child support. The judge plugs the following information into the guidelines, in addition to a few other details:
- The age of the children
- The number of children
- Each parent’s income
- How many overnights a child will spend with each parent
- Health care expenses
The court can also consider any children or child support obligations from a separate relationship, mandatory work deductions, health insurance costs, childcare costs and a few other costs which you can discuss with your attorney prior to the court date. The guidelines are not carved in stone, and a judge can depart from them in certain circumstances. For example, a judge might order more or less child support than the guideline amount if a child is disabled, if there are more than six children, if the parents have high earnings, or for educational expenses.
Can Parents Modify Child Support?
Yes. Either parent can request that a judge lower or raise the amount of child support paid. If you pay child support, you should continue to make payments until a judge signs off on the modification, otherwise you will owe back child support (called arrears).
A judge can modify child support if he or she finds that there have been “changed circumstances.” These circumstances must be substantial, permanent, and unanticipated, so not every change qualifies. Common changed circumstances to lower child support include:
- Job loss through no fault of your own
- Permanent disability
- Increase in parenting time so that the child is with you more
Conversely, the parent receiving child support can ask a judge to increase the amount of child support for the following reasons:
- The paying parent has secured a higher-paying job
- The child has a permanent disability or illness and has incurred higher medical expenses
- The non-custodial parent has less visitation
Either parent may also seek a modification without a substantial change of circumstances if at least three years have passed since the last order was put into place.
Seek Help from a New Jersey Family Law Attorney
Child support obligations are a significant expense to the parent paying and a welcome source of income to the parent receiving them. Either way, child support is one of the most critical issues in a divorce, and you need a qualified family law attorney to advise you.
Elena K. Weitz, Esq. has spent over a decade advising divorcing couples about child support and is here to assist you. Contact her for a consultation today; she serves all New Jersey counties.