CHILD SUPPORT – HOW NEW JERSEY COURTS CALCULATE AND MODIFY SUPPORT OBLIGATIONS

By: James McGlew II, Esq.

In New Jersey, child support is defined as a financial payment from one parent to the other to provide for the needs of their child or children. Child support is the right of every child and neither spouse can waive this responsibility. All parents regardless of their marital status have an obligation to support their children until they are deemed emancipated.
In most instances, the amount of child support to be paid is calculated by using New Jersey’s Child Support Guidelines. Income information is exchanged between the parents and this data is used in combination with factors such as the number of children, percentage of non-custodial parenting time and other prior child support obligations, to determine the amount of child support that is to be paid weekly. The Guidelines take into account the amount of funds necessary between the two parents to cover the basic needs of the children including, but not limited to, their food, shelter, healthcare and clothing expenses.
Child support obligations will remain in place for many years. Child support is not terminated automatically and may continue longer based on extraordinary circumstances such as the special needs of a child. As such, a common aspect of many divorce agreements is an agreement between the parties for the use of a “COLA” which is an acronym for Cost-of-Living Adjustment. This procedure automatically raises child support awards every two or three years, the specific details of which are negotiated and agreed to before any final divorce judgment is entered. The purpose of a COLA is to keep the child support award’s value current due to inflation. If child support is payable through the Probation Department, parents are often contacted directly regarding the implementation of a cost of living adjustment.
Changes to child support obligations can be made. Child support orders in New Jersey are subject to modification based upon what the Court may define as a change in circumstances. While there are numerous situations that can be defined as a change in circumstances, some of the more common situations that would qualify include:
• an increase in the cost of living
• the emancipation (as defined under law) of one or more of the children
• a demonstrable increase or decrease in the paying parents income
• a parent or child suffering a disability or serious illness
• or, in some instances, the maturation of the child or children.
If a modification in the amount of child support is appropriate, the party seeking to modify the amount paid is obligated to file an application with the Court. These written applications can sometimes be extremely fact sensitive and require extensive documented proof of the change in circumstances. This is particularly relevant if the reason for seeking a modification is employment or health related on the part of the paying parent.
Lindabury’s Family Law Group has decades of experience representing clients in negotiating, enforcing and amending child support obligations. We provide the full range of divorce and family law services and are easily accessible from our Westfield New Jersey office. Call today to schedule a consultation with James McGlew at (908) 233-6800.

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