The family courts of New Jersey calculate child support amounts by using the “Income Shares Model”, which divides the total amount of a child's necessary expenses between the parents in proportion to their incomes. These amounts are adjusted based on the amount of time each parent spends with the child, but as a general rule, the parent with the higher income is ordered to cover the majority of the child's expenses. The court will order the parent responsible for the bigger portion to pay the other parent a set amount of support on a systematic basis. Although it seems fairly straight-forward, calculating child support amounts can be incredibly complex depending on the child's needs and the parents' lifestyles. These individual concerns are addressed under “extraordinary expenses”, which include support for private school tuition, special programs for gifted and talented children, and car expenses for a child of driving age. Normally, a parent requesting support for such expenses would have to justify the additional cost by proving a child's special needs or talents. However, even if such expenses are justified, the courts must verify whether or not the other parent can support these costs.
Per the guidelines issued by the New Jersey Supreme Court, additional support must be paid by parents with an annual net income exceeding $187,200. The courts consider numerous factors when determining additional support amounts, such as the each parent's standard of living, the child's capacity for education, and each parent's debts and liabilities. As with the standard child support amount, the court's primary consideration is the child's needs, but additional support pertains to very specific and specialized needs. These needs are also specific to children from high incomes families, since the courts consider the lifestyle that the child would have lived had the parents stayed together. For instance, the court may determine that a car is necessary to a 17-year-old who lives in a suburban area, and has numerous school and social obligations. Furthermore, the courts may feel that the child is entitled to a car since the paying parent has a very high income and enjoys a high-class lifestyle. The courts will estimate the costs related to the purchase and maintenance of a car—including car insurance—and factor these amounts into the overall additional support amount. The total additional support amount will contain expenses for various needs, such as fees for sports clinics, summer camps, college tuition, and higher clothing budgets for teenagers. Although the courts always attempt to keep a child's needs separate from that of the receiving parent, some needs will unavoidably overlap. A common example is additional support for vacations, which would likely benefit both the child and the receiving parent. However, the courts recognize that it's in the best interest of a child to be supervised by a parent while on vacation. In addition, if the paying parent enjoys expensive vacations on a regular basis, the courts will generally agree that the child deserves similar vacation opportunities.
Regardless of your economic status, you should discuss your rights and legal options with an experienced family law attorney. Whether you need to file for child support, enforce an existing support order or modify a child support payment amount, please consider speaking with Partner Vincent C. DeLuca, Esq. of Villani & DeLuca. With over 20 years of experience in the New Jersey family courts system, Mr. DeLuca is qualified to advise you on the best course of action for resolving your child support issues. Please call (732) 965-3404 to schedule a free consultation!