When parents of a child have never married, or have divorced, a custody order may be created, in the case of unmarried parents, or will be created in the case of parents who divorce. Custody determines the care taking and parenting time spent with the child. However, custody does not always account for the financial responsibility of the child. While custody sets up a majority of the guidelines for when and what can happen to the child, it does not account for the costs of raising a child. At times, parents may need financial support in their care taking of a child. This financial support is known as child support. Child support can be requested outside of regular divorce proceedings, as it is meant to directly support a child, rather than a spouse. In New Jersey, there are a number of factors that can affect child support. The court uses a set of child support guidelines, along with information from both parents, to determine a relative amount of how much is necessary to support the child.
Filing For Child Support
Child support in New Jersey may be filed in one of two ways, depending on the family's custody order. The filing can be done with either a Sole Parenting Worksheet, for parents who have sole custody, or a Shared Parenting Worksheet, for parents who have shared custody of a child. These worksheets account for different issues that relate to the type of custody the parent has over the child, and as such require different filings. While New Jersey typically requires both parents to contribute to the financial support of a child, child support cases are largely determined based on both parents' income and time spent with the child, along with the court's guidelines.
Child Support For Parents With Sole Custody
Parents with sole custody, in general, may find that they receive higher amounts of child support, as they are responsible for the child for a greater period of time. In New Jersey, sole custody does not always mean that one parent truly holds the sole custody of the child, instead it means that a majority of the parenting time is with one parent. This, of course, means that this sole parent will be financially responsible for the child a majority of the time as well. The Sole Parenting Worksheet takes this into account, as well as other factors such as food, transportation, and other living expenses. These are calculated with the idea in mind that the sole parent bears more of the direct cost of raising the child.
Child Support For Parents With Shared Custody
Shared custody in New Jersey typically means that both parents have similar or equal parenting time with the child. For these types of cases, filing for child support should be done using the Shared Parenting Worksheet. Since shared parenting typically has near equal or exactly equal parenting time, the parents can usually be expected to contribute roughly the same amount of financial support to the care of the child, all other things being equal. What makes a difference is the level of income for both parents. Child support determinations are based off time spent with the child and the income of both parents. While sole parenting may necessitate a larger portion of the net income of the parents, support in shared custody will likely be dependent on which parent has higher income, especially if the parents have roughly equal parenting time.
Calculating Child Support
When it comes time for child support to be calculated, New Jersey utilizes a set of specific guidelines to determine what to base child support on. These guidelines are located in New Jersey's code, under rule 5:6A. A judge will use these, along with the parents net income to calculate an appropriate amount for child support. Child support may be discussed and agreed to through mediation, however, if it cannot be agreed upon outside of court, a hearing will be held. At any stage in the discussion of child support, but particularly a hearing, it will be helpful to have the services of an attorney. Attorneys can inform parents of possible outcomes, and advocate for their interests in the matter. The courts will also factor in any additional needs of the child, such as medical or mental health conditions.
Modifying Child Support Orders
Typically, child support orders are meant to stay in place for a specific period of time. Sometimes the support orders can be negotiated to expire once the child reaches a certain age or stage in life. Support orders are often drafted with the current circumstances in mind, however, as time goes on the lifestyles and circumstances of the parents supporting the children may change. When this happens, the court may be petitioned for a custody modification. Child support modification requests must be accompanied by supporting evidence to show that circumstances have changed. Changes in employment or relocation can affect a standing support agreement.
Enforcing Child Support Orders
Child support orders are enforced by the court. If the supporting parent is out of compliance, the parent expecting the support may take action with the court. New Jersey has a dedicated child support enforcement system that recipients may contact in order to locate where their child support payments are and why they have not been paid if a payment has not come through yet. Failure to pay child support can result in negative consequences for the supporting parent.
Negotiating child support in New Jersey can be a difficult and exhausting process. The law can become complex when there are multiple children involved, or when one spouse has higher income than another. It is of utmost importance to consult with an attorney to gain both perspective and an edge in the courtroom. You only want what is best for your child, and the services of a skilled attorney can help protect that. If you or a loved one is involved in child support procedures in New Jersey, contact attorney Joseph D. Lento today.