If you and your former spouse will determine child support as part of your divorce, you may be wondering whether the amount awarded will be fair. How much is too much when it comes to NJ child support?
The New Jersey Child Support Guidelines lay out basic parameters for calculating the monetary amount of a child support award. According to the Guidelines, child support is based on a formula that takes into account factors such as combined net parental income (or potential income if one parent is unemployed at the time support is calculated), how much time the child spends with each parent, add-ons for medical insurance costs and other special expenses, and more.
The dollar amount of child support awards in New Jersey varies widely from family to family. What can you do if you think that you are being asked to pay too much? Here are four strategies to make sure the amount of child support awarded is fair and equitable for your child — and for yourself.
Verify your spouse reported all “fair income” in the child support paperwork. Under the NJ Child Support Guidelines, almost all kinds of income must be used to calculate child support; even monies derived from overtime, lottery winnings, and unemployment benefits must be disclosed. Looking back over your calculations sheet at the amounts your spouse plugged in, do you have a sense that anything was left out? For example, if you know your spouse receives a year-end bonus, works as a bartender and receives tips, or tutors kids after school, do you see evidence that this income was reported? Let your attorney know should you have questions about reported income.
Are extracurricular or child care expenses overstated? As you run down the sheet of expenses covering your child’s care, look closely to make sure any listed costs actually match up with your child’s needs. Did the other parent list extracurricular team sports costs for your 2-year-old because he or she might someday play on a team sport? Is a nanny’s salary listed, when you know there is a licensed daycare center right near the other parent’s work (and your child has no special needs requiring one-on-one care)? What about summer camp? Questioning these kinds of costs during the calculation phase is much easier than going back after the fact to modify a final support award.
How much parenting time are you really putting in? If you and the other parent have a plan or order that shows the number of days each of you will spend with their kids, a special deduction is calculated for the parent who pays support, based on that time. This can be a lot or a little depending on the amount of visitation or parenting time and other factors.
In your case, perhaps your former spouse is so consistently late in picking up your child after spending the weekend with you that you’ve started keeping the child overnight on Sunday and dropping off at school the next day instead. Or maybe your child wants to spend more time with you and your former spouse is encouraging of this closer relationship, with or without formally amending your child custody agreement. Whatever the case, take a close look how much time during a week or month you have your child in your care, and compare to the amount on your child support order.
Do you have a child support order already in place? In cases where parents have children with multiple partners/spouses, calculations in the current support motion take into account payments being made in previously established support orders. Generally, other child support orders are deducted from the payer’s income (note: existing alimony orders may also count as an income deduction).
It is the intent of New Jersey family law that the amount of child support paid or received should not leave a parent too poor or impoverished. Depending on the parent’s financial situation, he or she may also file to modify prior orders in order to make it possible to fulfill their financial obligations to all their children.
Are you dealing with a child support issue and want to know what a fair child support amount is in your case? Please contact us to schedule an initial confidential consultation to discuss your matter.