If you are a parent going through a divorce, or if you have never been married to your child’s other parent and have decided to end the relationship, you may need information about child support. In New Jersey, both parents are obligated to support their children.

New Jersey follows the “Income Shares Model” of support. Courts ordering support refer to the current version of the New Jersey Child Support Guidelines contained in Court Rule 5:6A and Appendix IX. The guidelines approximate a total support amount that parents would spend on a child in an intact family unit and then split this amount proportionately between the parents according to their incomes. The guidelines are quite complex and detailed.

When calculating child support, you can estimate the amount of support a judge might order by determining the total income available for support from both parents and then completing either the Sole Parenting Worksheet (Appendix IX C) or the Shared Parenting Worksheet (Appendix IX D). Courts require these worksheets in all cases where a parent seeks to establish or modify (change) child support if you fit into the combined gross income threshold. The New Jersey Department of Human Services is the state agency responsible for helping parents obtain and enforce child support orders, including locating absent parents and establishing paternity, if necessary.

Child support is primarily dependent upon the levels of the parents’ income.

The guidelines apply to those cases in which the parents’ combined income is less than $240,000 per year (net of taxes), the NJ Child Support Guidelines will be the baseline determination used to calculate child support.

First, a determination must first be made as to which of the parents is the Parent of Primary Residence and which parent is the Parent of Alternate Residence. The parent with the more overnight time with the child is the Parent of Primary Residence and is the parent to whom the child support is paid.

If the parents’ combined after tax income is less than $240,000, the amount of child support to be paid is presumptively defined by the NJ Child Support Guidelines, and is subject to basically only three variables:

  1. The number of overnights per week which the child spends in each parent’s home;
  2. The total income of the parties;
  3. Each party’s respective share of the total income.

The computer programs which apply the Guidelines and child support worksheet automatically take these variables into account and calculate a child support award.

In addition to the basic child support award, there are certain “extraordinary” expenses most often allocated between the parents in the ratio of their incomes. Typically such “extraordinary” expenses include, but are not limited to, medical expenses or work related day care expenses.

In addition to medical and day care expenses, individual cases and a child’s particular needs or interests may justify and/or mandate additional payments, i.e. children with learning disabilities, tutoring, specialized schooling, or extraordinary talents of the child requiring additional expenses.

On the other hand, when the parents’ combined income exceeds $240,000 per year net of taxes, the Court must consider specific factors in order to determine the amount of child support. The factors include:

  1. needs of the child;
  2. the standard of living and economic circumstances of each parent;
  3. all sources of income for each parent;
  4. the assets of each parent, or the earning ability of each parent;
  5. the child’s need and capacity for further education, including higher education;
  6. the age and health of the child;
  7. the age and health of each parent, and the income or assets of the child, and the responsibility of either parent for other Court ordered support;
  8. the reasonable debts of either party.

This is considered an “above guideline” matter and gives a Judge more discretion and is more complicated and subjective. It requires a complete analysis of the child’s needs and the standard of living during the marriage, and is a more difficult and time consuming analysis that requires experienced counsel.