In the event that minor children are involved in a divorce proceeding, the law in New Jersey states that the court will do whatever is in the best interest of the child. In aiming to satisfy the “best interest of the child” standard, the court will attempt to make the child's financial position the same as if the marriage never ended by way of child support.
In the event that a couple chooses to divorce in New Jersey, one spouse might be required to pay child support to the other spouse. The paying spouse generally does not have residential custody and is known as the non-custodial parent. This parent will be required to pay a certain amount of money to the custodial parent to support the child or children. Child support is evaluated by using a certain set of guidelines that have been established by the courts.
A common question regarding child support is whether or not it can be altered after the divorce has been completed. The answer is yes. Depending on several factors, the child support payments can be modified.
What Is Child Support?
The purpose of child support is to financially pay for the things a child will need. The non-custodial parent is paying the custodial parent to provide basic needs such as shelter, health care, education, food and clothing. In New Jersey, the person paying is known as the obligor and the person receiving the support is the obligee. The supporting parent is not paying the custodial parent. The money is for the care of the child with the custodial parent overseeing the money utilized for the child's care.
Is It Possible To Modify Child Support?
In the event that the obligee has what is known as “changed circumstances,” it is possible that the obligee or obligor can request that the child support be subject to modification depending on the situation.
The changed circumstances must be unanticipated—they could not have been predicted although not entirely unforeseeable; they must be substantial and constitute a major change; and they have to be permanent. If the circumstances are for a temporary amount of time or have yet to happen, the request for modification will potentially be denied.
If there is an attempt to modify a child support agreement, the parent making the request must provide proof to the judge that the above criteria are met. Without the criteria being met, the other parent is not required to provide the court with financial information.
If there is an agreement on the part of the judge that the changed circumstances have been proven, the other parent will be required to provide financial information to the court and then the judge will review the available facts in the case and come to a decision on the modification request. After that, an order will be issued by the judge that will take into account the same factors that were taken into account when the child support award was initially made.
The judge will consider the following: the child's needs; the economic situation of both parents and the standard of living; the income and assets of both parents; the employment and earning potential of each parent including education and possibility of improving their current situation; the needs of the child regarding education; the potential earning ability of the child; the parents' responsibility to support people other than the child; the debts and liabilities of the parents and the child; and other issues that may be determined to be relevant by the court.
Modification Of Child Support Orders In New Jersey
In order to request a modification, a motion must be filed. The copy of the original court order, the previous statements from the case, sworn statements (affidavits) and legal arguments (briefs) will all be required as part of the request. In addition, financial documentation must be included so the judge will understand the circumstances surrounding the request to alter the agreement.
There are numerous instances under which a child support agreement might be subject to modification: a rise in the cost of living; if the income of the obligor increases or reduces; if there is an illness with the child or parent following the divorce agreement; if the obligee lost their place of residence; if the obligee is residing with another adult; if the obligee has gotten a job and is making more money; or if the federal income tax laws have been altered.
A cost of living adjustment (COLA) is common with modifications of child support agreements. New Jersey requires that the amount of child support be adjusted for inflation every two years. The obligor can contest this increase if his or her salary has not risen along with inflation. It is also possible to have the child support modified downward if the obligor is retiring.
Guidelines For Child Support
In New Jersey, the amount of child support that a parent is required to pay is based upon New Jersey's Child Support Guidelines if the children live with one of the divorced parents. The formula within the Guidelines was developed by economists at the request of the Supreme Court of New Jersey, with the goal of providing for uniformity and fairness in child support awards throughout the State of New Jersey.
The Guidelines include the children's share of expenses for housing, food, clothing, transportation, entertainment, health care and other miscellaneous items. The court may also add other expenses into the Guidelines such as child care expenses, health insurance for the children and other expenses approved by a court. These expenses will be included before a final calculation is made and will be allocated in the support amount in proportion to each parent's income.
The goal of the Guidelines is to make certain that the support is a continuous duty of both parents; that the involved children are entitled to share in the current income of both parents; and that involved children should not become financial victims of the divorce.
To aid this process, the New Jersey Child Support Guidelines attempt to allocate the cost of raising a child fairly between the child's parents. The Guidelines determine the amount of money it will take to raise the children depending on the children's age and the combined income of both parents. Then, there is an allocation that cost between both parents dependent upon their respective incomes.
How The Guidelines Work
New Jersey took further steps to simplify the process by creating two different worksheets to assist parents who need to determine the amount of child support they must pay. The sole parenting worksheet is used for parents whose children stay overnight with the other parent less than two nights per week. The shared parenting worksheet is used for parents who children stay overnight with the other parent two nights a week or more.
The forms appear quite similar but can be complex to complete by oneself. It is very difficult to complete these forms without legal assistance and the proper software. It is always a good idea to have these forms checked by a lawyer, even if you purchase the software and fill out the forms on your own. That way, your rights and interests continue to be overseen and protected while you go through the divorce process.
First, a legislative committee has worked diligently in determining how much it costs to raise a child or children in NJ these days. For example, a family with two children whose combined net income is $1680 per week would spend $346 per week on children, in theory. The guidelines are capable of determining the cost of raising a child for up to six children, and can cover net weekly income from $170 per week to $2,900 per week.
Once the child reaches the teenage years, the amount is increased, but only slightly. The guidelines determination is an average, not a fully accurate amount of how much it might cost to raise your unique child.
Considerations And Adjustments
What the chart/guidelines do is examine the gross incomes of each parent. Then it takes into account union dues, taxes, child care, health insurance and other expenses, and then arrives at the expected cost of raising the child or children in New Jersey. Then, adjustments are made, depending on how many nights the children or child spends with each parent. Next, the total cost of raising the child is divided between the two parents. It is not an equal division, but based on a ratio to each parents net income. Finally, the amount of child support that one parent will pay another is determined.
How The Guidelines Base Child Costs
In New Jersey, the guidelines are based on three parts. The first part is called fixed cost. This is cost incurred even when the child or children is not residing with the parent. All housing related costs are fixed costs in NJ. Variable costs are the second type of costs. They follow the child, because they are incurred only when the child is with one parent. This can include food and transportation. The final costs are called controlled costs and they include personal care, entertainment expenses and clothing.
Fixed costs and variable costs are divided between the parents. The division is based on how much time the child or children spends with each parent.
Controlled costs fall under the jurisdiction of the primary parent. This means, that if you are the primary custodian of your child, it is up to you to assume the cost for haircuts, movie tickets, school uniforms and other clothing. However, if your spouse is planning to take a child on a vacation, which would be a variable cost, then that spouse may be expected to pay for any clothing, i.e. new bathing suit for a cruise, that would fall under the jurisdiction of the vacation.
Contact Us About Changes To Child Support In New Jersey
If you or a loved one are seeking a modification of a child support agreement as an obligor or obligee in Ocean County, Monmouth County or anywhere else in New Jersey, it is imperative to speak to a qualified divorce attorney from the Law Firm of Villani & DeLuca, P.C. in Point Pleasant Beach, New Jersey. Child support payments hinge on many factors and so does the possibility of making a modification to those obligations. It is possible to have the child support payments changed and an attorney can assist you.