Child support calculations will have a significant impact on your finances and your child's well-being. Educating yourself on New Jersey child support laws and retaining a qualified family law attorney will help ensure that child support orders in your case reflect accurate numbers.
New Jersey courts calculate child support primarily based upon custody allocation as well as the income of each parent. However, parents should be aware that determining income for child support purposes is not always as straightforward as they might expect. Additionally, in some cases, health insurance costs, a child's special needs, or other unique factors may affect support calculations.
Understanding NJ child support calculations will enable you to prevent mistakes in your case, help you plan for the future, or decide whether to pursue a modification. An NJ child support lawyer can provide advice on these complex laws.
Using the Correct Calculations Based on Your Parenting Plan
The calculation of New Jersey child support depends on how you share custody of your children, specifically whether one parent has sole custody or if parents share custody. If the non-primary parent is exercising the equivalent of at least two overnights per week, NJ law may consider the family to have shared parenting time for child support purposes.
When one parent has sole custody of the children and the other has only occasional parenting time, families should calculate support using the Sole-Parenting Worksheet, sometimes referred to as Appendix IX-C. In nearly all of these cases, the noncustodial parent will be the obligor (the person who must pay child support), but the amount of support owed will depend on other factors, such as each parent's income.
If a custody arrangement includes substantial overnight parenting time for each parent, then they should calculate child support using the Shared Parenting Worksheet. In these cases, either parent may owe child support depending on other factors.
To calculate the correct amount of support, parties must also refer to the appropriate Schedule of Child Support Awards in the NJ court rules based on their custody arrangement. New Jersey's child support worksheets and schedules can be challenging to use. Errors in calculations can cost you money or leave you with the wrong expectations. If you have questions about child support, a skilled NJ child support attorney can help.
Calculating the Income for Each Parent
Child support depends heavily on the income of each parent. Although you may know your salary and have an idea of your ex's income, determining income for child support isn't always simple. According to New Jersey rules, the court must consider regular employment compensation as well as many less obvious sources of income when calculating child support. Examples of other income sources include:
- Income from operating a business
- Gains from real estate dealings
- Interest, dividends, and other investment earnings
- Income from rental properties
- Pay bonuses and royalties
- Alimony or spousal support from current or past relationships
- Unemployment compensation
- Gambling winnings
- Money from personal injury awards or civil lawsuits
- Severance pay
Determining income can be tricky in cases where a person has fluctuating income due to commissions or bonuses. If one parent is self-employed or has an ownership interest in a business, income calculations can be especially challenging. These cases often involve lengthy and technical financial documents.
When a party has variable income, the court often looks at average earnings over the recent most 12 months. However, this is not always representative of a person's typical income and may lead to an unfair result. Working with a knowledgeable family law attorney can help you fight for income numbers that will be fair and beneficial to you and your child.
Unfortunately, sometimes people hide their income to gain an advantage in a child support case. If you believe your ex is hiding income, you may benefit from the representation of an accomplished child support lawyer. Attorneys like those at Villani & DeLuca can work to obtain financial documents like tax returns, bank statements, and other financial records to determine the other party's actual income.
Other Factors Influencing Child Support
A few other items are factored into child support under New Jersey law. These include:
- A child's health insurance costs
- Work-related childcare expenses
- Predictable and recurring uninsured health care expenses for the child
- Court-approved predictable and recurring extraordinary expenses
NJ rules on adjusting child support based on these expenses are long and complex. Carefully following a child support worksheet can help you make the right adjustment based on your expenses. However, you must also know the rules about which expenses may be included. For example, work-related childcare expenses may generally only be included for a child under the age of 13 or who has a disability. Expenses for private school tuition, activities, or other special needs may be included in child support calculations but only with court approval.
Deviations from Child Support Guidelines
New Jersey legal rules, child support worksheets, and support schedules all provide a guideline for calculating support. These guidelines allow courts to order consistent and predictable child support across a broad range of cases.
However, occasionally, there are situations where the court allows deviations from these guidelines. Most variations happen because the parties agree upon child support that is different than the worksheet calculation. Parties may do this due to a unique situation or out of a recognition that the obligor provides additional financial support for the child in some other significant way.
In rare cases, a judge may choose to deviate from the guidelines in a contested case. The judge may order another amount if a party can prove that the guideline number is inappropriate for that particular case. Proving the need for a deviation without an agreement from the other party is very difficult. A person who is concerned that the guideline amount is not appropriate for their case should seek the advice of a qualified child support attorney.
In New Jersey, courts order child support so that children enjoy economic assistance from both parents regardless of whether their parents are married. Therefore, the court will only approve a deviation from support guidelines if it is found to be in the best interests of the child.
An Experienced NJ Family Lawyer Will Help Calculate Child Support
The Rules of New Jersey Courts contain over 100 pages of instructions, worksheets, schedules, and rules regarding the calculation of child support. If your case involves complex issues like income from self-employment or extraordinary expenses for your child, calculations may become more difficult.
An experienced NJ family law attorney, like those found at Villani & DeLuca, can work to make sure that child support calculations are done correctly. Counsel can fight for support orders that are fair to you and your child. If you want to learn more about how the court might calculate child support in your case, call the knowledgeable attorneys at Villani & DeLuca for a consultation.