Child Support Questions – FAQs
Get answers to your child support questions: How is child support calculated? What happens to child support after remarriage? Can child support ever increase or decrease? What about child emancipation? And more. Here are answers to these and many other common questions about child support in New Jersey, provided by the skilled and knowledgeable attorneys at Weinberger Divorce & Family Law Group, LLC.
Please note that our answers fall under New Jersey jurisdiction and may not apply to you should your family law or divorce legal issue be located out of the state of New Jersey.
How is child support calculated in New Jersey?
Child support in the State of New Jersey is calculated by utilizing the Child Support Guidelines Worksheets, in most situations. We start by looking at both parents’ respective gross incomes. This is an “all in” amount, meaning we look at parents’ total compensation from all aspects. Then, we look and determine if, in fact, alimony is being paid or received. We add this amount to the receiving party’s income. We deduct it from the paying party’s income. We then run tax effects to come up with a net income number. Next, we figure out, based upon the child support guidelines, based upon the number of children, and the combined net incomes of the parents, how much child support, per week, should this family, if they were an intact family, be paying — given their combined net income. We take that amount, on a weekly basis, and we divide it on a percentage allocation, between the two parents, given their respective net incomes.
We also give certain credits. Credits might be in the form of who is paying the medical premiums for the children, and who has a certain number of overnights with the children, because they might be paying for extra dinners or extra time with the kids, and that’s considered. Childcare is also a consideration and a credit that is applied on the Child Support Guideline Worksheet. It is an intricate calculation, and it is very specific. It is in your best interest to meet with a child custody, and child support, and divorce and family law attorney in order to figure out exactly what the number is that meets your family’s needs, so that the support calculation is accurate in your matter.
Can I get spousal support and child support during our separation?
During separation — from the filing of a complaint for divorce up and to and including the filing of a judgment of divorce — many people are concerned with how they will continue to get by financially and how they will support their children. It’s important to know that temporary alimony (spousal support) and child support may be available to you during this time.
Temporary spousal support and child support can either be paid by consent of the parties through a simple consent order agreement or alternatively one party can apply to the court through a petition called a notice of motion. This is a formal application to the court to ask the court to enter a temporary order that obligates one party — usually the higher earning spouse — to supply some type of financial relief to the non-earning spouse or the lesser earning spouse and/or to their children. The courts view this relief as providing for a more level playing field throughout the entire divorce process.
How much child support will I need to pay? How much can I receive?
The amount that you are obligated to pay or that you will receive in child support is calculated using the New Jersey Child Support Guidelines. The guidelines are a computer program that every court in the state uses to calculate the amount of child support to be paid in a matter. Several factors are considered in the guidelines, including your wages and earnings, the costs of child care and any out-of-pocket insurance expenses. Also considered are the number of overnights a parent spends with their child. The courts will order whatever figure is calculated through the guidelines, although it is possible for parties to agree to change the figure. However, this must be approved by the court.
How does child support work if the parents have equal time with the child?
If both parties spend an equal amount of time with the child (have the same number of overnights) then a “shared” child support guideline will be used by the court. Both parties’ income will be used and, unless there is a large difference of income between the parents, the child support would most likely be very small.
How does child support work if one parent remarries?
Unlike alimony, a parent’s obligation to pay child support continues even after one or both parents remarries. In certain situations, the remarriage may bring changes that can be seen as significantly changing the circumstances of that parent. For example, if a parent was awarded both child and spousal support in a divorce, but then alimony stopped because of the remarriage, that parent’s circumstances have changed because their spousal support (which is income) has been reduced. If it is a substantial reduction, the Child Support Guidelines may need to be rerun with the spousal support subtracted from that parent’s income. This may affect the amount of child support that parent receives.
How does child support work if one parent leaves New Jersey?
The child support will continue with no change. However, it is advised that if you move or your ex-partner moves, that the child support be made payable through the Probation Department rather than be directly paid to the parent. This ensures that the payments are being accounted for. You should bring your order for child support to the county courthouse in your new home state so that it can be registered. United States laws allow for one state to enforce the child support others of another state through the UCCJEA Act.
How is back child support calculated? Does back child support include interest?
You are entitled to receive child support back to the date that you filed your papers asking the court to award you child support. So, by the time you get to court, there already may be charges accruing. The judge can order that this be paid in a lump sum or spread out over weekly or bi-weekly payments. Arrears may also occur if the owing parent fails to make payments. If this happens, you can ask the court to enforce your child support order. Child support arrears do not include interest.
Which state has jurisdiction over child support matters if parents move?
The state that issued the order for child support retains control over that case. If the child moves out of that state, the new state will ensure to enforce the child support order from the original state.
How does a parent’s unemployment affect child support calculations?
In New Jersey, the fairness of a child support award depends on an accurate determination of the parent’s income. If one or both parents is voluntarily unemployed or underemployed (working at a job for lower wages than what the person can potentially earn), the court may decide what that parent’s true earning potential is, and use that figure for the guidelines. The court will look at things such as that parent’s work history, earning history, any disability, education level, experience and the lengths to which the parent has gone in order to find a suitable job, among other factors.
How is child support calculated when a parent is self-employed?
If a parent’s income is from their own business or from things such as rent, royalties or income from an inheritance, careful inspection of that parent’s income is needed to determine the complete and accurate sources of income. When a parent owns a business, certain expenses permitted by the IRS for tax purposes are not allowed to be used in child support calculations. Be sure to consult an attorney experienced in the complexities of the New Jersey Child Support Guidelines.
How is child support calculated when a parent is on disability?
It depends on the type of disability payments that the parent is receiving. If the parent is receiving Social Security Disability (SSD) then the child support guidelines treat this payment as income to be used in the calculation of child support. However, children of parents who are receiving SSD benefits are usually entitled to a derivative benefit of their own. If this is the case, the money the child received directly is factored into the child support guidelines.
If the parent is receiving Supplemental Security Income (SSI), this is not considered income and is not added into the guidelines as income for that parent.
Are Social Security and/or unemployment benefits used in support calculations?
Social security benefits — either disability or retirement benefits — and unemployment benefits are considered income and can be used as income for the purpose of calculating child support. The exact amount that can be taken is determined on a case-by-case basis; however there are limits so that a person cannot fall below the established poverty threshold. It is recommended that you seek the advice of an attorney with your specific figures, so that a more accurate number can be gotten.
When will my child support obligation end?
Your child support obligation continues until your child becomes “emancipated,” meaning that the child no longer requires their parents’ financial support. Under New Jersey’s new child support and emancipation law, enacted in February 2017, children are automatically considered emancipated at age 19, and child support automatically terminates at age 19, unless the child is disabled, is in school full-time (either still in high school or in an undergraduate or graduate program) or is in a DYFS placement out of the home. No matter what, child support ends when the child turns 23 years of age, with no exception. There are several situations that may emancipate your children before or after age 19: marriage, entry into the military, obtaining a full-time job or any other event that the court sees as your child being self-supportive.
My child has a job. Do I still need to pay child support?
Not necessarily. If your child’s job is, for example, a part-time job while he or she is enrolled in college full-time, then your obligation would not end. If you child is employed full time, is not attending school and is self-sufficient, he or she would most likely be found to be emancipated by a judge.
How can my child support be reduced or changed?
In order to change your child support obligation, you would have to file a child support modification motion with the court asking that the child support be raised or lowered. The law in New Jersey states that judges can only modify a prior child support order if the parent asking for the change can show the court that there has been significant change of circumstances that would cause the amount to be raised or lowered. It should be noted that loss of unemployment in and of itself may not be a significant change in circumstances warranting the change.
How can I find out if a child support payment has been made?
If your child support is paid through the probation department, either through wage garnishment or direct pay, you have access to your probation account online. You will be given instructions on how to view your account when your account is set up with the probation department. You can also call the probation department directly and speak with your case worker, especially if child support enforcement is needed.
How does child support wage garnishment work?
When the judge gives you your child support order, you must bring the order to the probation department in the courthouse. You and your ex-partner will complete forms with the court and provide employer information in order that the account be set up. The employer of the parent paying the support must, by law, comply and deduct the child support from that parent’s paycheck. That money is then sent to the probation department and then sent to the parent receiving the support.
How does child support work in the military?
The mechanisms for child support work the same if the payments are being made through the probation department; however laws vary from state to state regarding the amount of support. Be sure to consult with an experienced family law attorney regarding military child support garnishments.
Can I receive child support if I was never married to my child’s other parent?
Yes. Marital status does not affect a person’s obligation to pay or a person’s right to receive child support. New Jersey law requires that both parents of a child financially support that child.
Can a non-biological step-parent be made to pay child support?
Whoever is the biological father of the child is financially responsible for supporting that child. However, if your husband or wife substantially supports the child and acts as their parent for a significant period of time, they could be viewed as a “psychological parent” and be responsible for financially supporting the child in the event of a divorce. Also, if your spouse formally adopts the child, then he or she is considered a legal parent and is responsible for financially supporting that child.
Is rental income considered when calculating child support?
Yes. Rental income is considered “additional income”, the same way that the IRS would treat rental income.
Does child support enforcement work?
Yes. If your ex-partner fails to pay child support and child support enforcement is required, the probation department can bring him or her into court to answer to the judge. This can be done with or without your participation. Some remedies the judge can order are: suspension of a driver’s license, revocation of a passport, incarceration, suspension of a professional license and/or the confiscation of an income tax refund or lottery winnings.
How much child support can you owe before you are put in jail?
This varies from state to state and is also up to the judge when and for how long to incarcerate a person who owes child support arrears. There may be other penalties for failing to pay child support such as automatic garnishment of income tax refunds, loss of driver’s license and revocation of your passport.
I have two kids with two different mothers. How does child support work?
The first child to receive child support takes precedence. The second order for support takes into account the first order for support and gives the father a deduction on the second order. This is called the “Other Dependent Deduction.” If the orders are paid through probation, there will be two separate accounts.
What are my options in New Jersey if my former spouse stops paying child support?
If you have a child support order or agreement with your ex and your ex has failed to abide by the terms of that particular agreement or order, you have rights. Remember, child support is the right of your child and that child needs you to step up and have a voice. You can enforce the terms of that order or agreement by either going to the probation department or otherwise going to the court on your own and filing an enforcement application in the form of a notice of motion.
Things that you can ask for are as follows: A notice of motion to hold the payor, that your ex in violation of litigant’s rights, asking for that payor to immediately rectify any and all arrears and make their arrears current, that means pay everything up to date that has yet not been paid. Ask that payor to have their wages garnished going forward. So if the payor has a job that’s established, that means getting their employer to take money directly from their paycheck and pay it directly to you or through the probation department, so you are ensured that that child support gets paid.
You can ask that their tax refund, if any, gets garnished. You can ask that their driver’s license be suspended. You can ask that their passport be turned over to the State. You can ask essentially that this person, if the arrears are, in fact, egregious enough, are incarcerated and arrested with their release conditional upon full payment. There are certain lengths onto which certain judges will go to make sure that child support is absolutely paid. You just have to step up and ask for it. So make sure it happens.
Child Support FAQs: Special Circumstances
Changes in Children’s Needs
I have two children, ages 4 and 5. Their father pays child support weekly based on the NJ Child Support Guidelines. I recently got a new job and the children are now beginning day care, which is expensive. Can their father contribute to the cost?
Yes. The New Jersey Child Support Guidelines, or the computer program used by all courts in New Jersey to come up with child support amounts for separated couples with kids, has a specific calculation built in for the expense of daycare. It sounds like your child support amount was calculated before the children began daycare, so it should be adjusted. I would attempt to discuss this with your ex and try and come up with a figure that works for both of you. It is always best to avoid litigation if you can come to a consent agreement for the support amount. You can always speak with a family law attorney who can use the NJ Child Support Guidelines to advise you at least generally about what the new figure will look like.
Due to the new child support and emancipation laws that went into effect on February 1, 2017, do I still have to file for emancipation of my child when he turns 23 years old?
No. Under the new child support and emancipation law, the procedure for terminating child support at age 19 begins automatically and will only continue to age 23 if the child is disabled, is in school full-time (either still in high school or in an undergraduate program) or is in a DYFS placement out of the home. No matter what, child support ends when the child turns 23 years of age, with no exception. Parents paying support no longer have to file requests to stop the child support once their child turns 19 or, if they meet one of the exceptions, 23. Visit njchildsupport.org for more information.
What is “emancipated?” The court told me recently that my 22 year old son is emancipated because he graduated from college and no longer will receive child support.
The term “emancipation” is a legal term in New Jersey that defines when a child is no longer within the “sphere of influence” of their parents. In simple terms, this means that parents can no longer make decisions for their children and, in turn, children are no longer entitled to financial support from their parents. Think of it as your child now being seen as “on their own two feet.” Since your son has graduated from college, he is now able to get a full-time job and support himself without the need for support from you or his other parent. Regardless, be aware that all child support ends when your son turns 23, without exception.
Child Support Termination & Special Needs Children
My daughter is turning 20 next week. I received notification that her child support is ending because she is over 19 years old. However, she is severely autistic and has been in a special educational program since she was in preschool. She is definitely in need of the child support and will never be able to work.
Your daughter will assuredly fit into one of the exceptions to child support automatically ending when a child turns age 19. Under this new law that went into effect here in New Jersey on February 1, 2017, children are seen as emancipated, or no longer in need of the support of their parents automatically at age 19, unless they fit into an exception to continue child support. Mental and/or physical disability is one of those exceptions. You should complete the form you received with the notice that tells the Probation Department you are requesting the child support continue and provide proof of your child’s disability such as medical reports, evidence of her educational placement and any governmental determination of disability such as her receiving SSI income. Be aware, though, that her child support will end, without exception, when she reaches 23 years of age.
Child Support & College
I currently pay $200.00 per week in child support. My daughter is beginning college this year and my ex-wife is asking that I pay an additional $10k per year in tuition which is one-half. Do I have to pay both?
Likely, yes. The courts look at a college education as a necessity for children. Courts look at several factors when determining if parents should contribute to college expenses, including ability of the parent to pay, the amount of the contribution sought and the aptitude and long-range goals of the child. If the court is satisfied after reviewing all the factors, you will likely be responsible for some payment of her college tuition and other related expenses.
Child Support For 18 Year Old
Our daughter is eighteen years old, still lives with her mom and attends culinary school full-time. She also works a part-time job. Her mother is remarried and living with her new husband and my child. Do I still have to pay child support?
In New Jersey, child support ends when a child turns nineteen years of age unless they fit into an exception, and a full-time, continuing education program is one of those exceptions. If your child is still attending culinary school on a full-time basis when she turns nineteen, her mother will have to provide proof of her full-time enrollment in that program in order for child support to continue. Without exception, child support ends at age 23. Your exes’ remarriage has no real bearing on your obligation to pay child support.
My girlfriend told me not to worry about paying child support and that she would pay for everything. We don’t live together. Do I have to pay child support for our child who is due to be born next month?
Each parent here in New Jersey is financially obligated to pay child support. Even though your child’s other parent tells you that she does not want child support, you are still obligated to provide financial support for your child. The right to child support belongs not to the parents, but to the child and because of that, one parent cannot refuse support. It is not their support to refuse. Your child’s mother always has the ability to go to court and request support for your child at any time. Your best bet is to work out a child support figure with your child’s mother that you both agree upon. If you child’s mother refuses the support, open a separate bank account for your child where you can deposit the money. If you are unsure how much to provide, see a family law attorney who can advise you.
Child Support Modifications
How do I convince the judge to lower my child support payment amount? The amount was based on my income in 2008 and I earn much less money now than I did then.
Your child support amount should be recalculated if your circumstances have significantly changed since the original child support award was entered by the court. It is your burden to prove that your circumstances have changed enough to warrant a reduction in your support. Be aware that a temporary change in income may not be sufficient and you cannot be voluntarily unemployed or underemployed. File a motion with the court seeking a modification of your child support obligation and bring with you proofs of income such as your last three paystubs, W-2 statements and your income tax returns for the last three years.
Can I Withhold Parenting Time?
My child’s father has not paid child support in 6 months. I want to withhold his parenting time and refuse to send my son for his weekends. Is this legal?
No. According to the law in New Jersey, child support and parenting time are two separate issues and you cannot withhold your child from his father simply because he has failed to provide you with child support. In fact, it is never a good idea to change a court order on your own or engage in what is known as “self-help.” If your support is through your local Probation Office, contact your caseworker and let them know that you want your child support order enforced immediately. You should also request that your support be garnished from his wages automatically if that is not already being done. Your ex faces other possible repercussion for not paying support such as loss of driver’s license, interception of his income tax refunds or even incarceration.
Child Custody & Child Support
My ex-wife and I just agreed to change the custody arrangement we have for our four-year-old daughter. In the past, I had her on alternating weekends. Now, we share 50 percent of the time with her, splitting the week between us. Will this affect my child support?
Yes. If you have not already, you need to have your child support reviewed and recalculated, using the New Jersey Child Support Guidelines. The guidelines take into account the amount of overnights spent with each parent when calculating a child support amount. The number of overnights you now have with your daughter have significantly increased. This would surely be seen as a significant change in circumstances warranting a modification of support. If it is a true 50/50 split of residential custody, there may not be any child support obligation at all.
Consequences for Non-payment of Child Support
I recently attempted to renew my passport but was told that I could not because I owe $10,000 in back child support. Is this legal?
Yes. Revoking a passport or putting restrictions on getting a passport is one of the remedies that judges can order when a person fails to pay child support. Other remedies include intercepting income tax refunds or lottery winnings or even incarceration for failing to pay the support. You should have received notice that there was an enforcement action for child support filed against you. Either way, you must file, or have an attorney file, a motion with the court in order for you to have the ability to get your passport renewed. Be advised that you are going to have to address the child support arrears in some way in order for the judge to remove the hold on your passport.
Child Support & Gifted Kids
My child is an exceptional athlete and wants to attend a very expensive summer program for gifted baseball players. Is his mother required to pay for some of this program? Our son lives with me and she pays child support, but this expense is above and beyond her regular payments.
She could be responsible for providing some contribution towards this extra program for your son. The New Jersey Child Support Guidelines do include an “entertainment” section that is intended to cover sports and recreation expenses. However, the guidelines do discuss the special or gifted child and how the extraordinary expenses needed in educating or fostering the needs and talents of these children should not be included in the guidelines figure. This leaves you with the ability to seek additional contribution from your ex-spouse. If you cannot agree, the judge will look at all the circumstances and base his or her decision on what is in the best interests of your son.
Child Support & Children From Previous Marriage
My daughter’s father pays child support for his son from a prior marriage. Will this child support obligation effect any child support that my daughter may get?
It could. When child support is calculated, a parent with another child can use what is called the Other Dependent Deduction. That deduction would be a credit to him on any child support calculation for your child. However, in order to use the Other Dependent Deduction, your child’s father has to provide income information for the mother of his son.
Is New Jersey spousal support or child support taxable or tax deductible?
In a child or parenting issue in divorce or family law matters there can be an abundance of questions regarding your legal situation. We understand that each family and legal issue is unique. While laws may be static, your questions and concerns are not. If you’d like to ask a question that you don’t see here in our FAQ section, please see our Ask Your Question page to ask your questions about child or parenting issues in divorce or family law.
Please note that our answers fall under New Jersey jurisdiction and may not apply to you should your family law or divorce legal issue be located out of the state of New Jersey.
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