Charting New Jersey’s Child Support Policies

States Set Different Formulas to Calculate Child Support for Their Residents. Find Out How Payments are Determined in the Garden State versus Others Across the Country.

New Jersey's Child Support Model vs. Other StatesChild support is the amount a parent pays to contribute to a minor child’s expenses until adulthood. It is an amount a family court judge orders after configuring income and expenses using state calculators. While both parents are legally bound to support their children financially, typically, one parent pays support to the primary custodial parent after separation or divorce, considering income and parenting time with minor children.

A Breakdown of Child Support Models

Percentage of Income Model

Each state legislature dictates the child support model for its residents. One of three child support models frames child support awards in each state. The first, the percentage of income model, calculates a monthly child support amount using the non-custodial parent’s income to arrive at a base amount (essential support without considering additional costs of child or medical care). One of the two types, a flat percentage, takes a set proportion of the non-custodial parent’s income to arrive at the monthly child support.

Thus, a non-custodial parent may pay 10% of their $4,000.00 monthly income or $400.00 for one child. The second, a varying percentage, sets different percentages for each income level, with the highest income being the highest percentage. Lower incomes warrant a lower percentage basis for child support. Six states use the percentage of income method to determine child support.

The Income Shares Model

The most popular formula (41 states have this as their default calculator, including New Jersey), the income shares model, uses both parents’ income to arrive at a base child support amount. The thought behind this model is that children enjoy the parents’ combined income as if they were together. Base pay includes the addition of child and medical care costs. Each parent contributes to the base pay amount in proportion to their monthly income. So, a higher-paid non-custodial parent may pay two-thirds of the base amount, and the custodial parent pays the rest, the combined contributions equaling the base payment.

The Melson Formula

Combining the percentage and income shares models, you get the Melson Formula. The basic premise of this formula is the expectation that a parent gets to cover their base needs before calculating child support. Support is the surplus after parents’ and children’s basic needs are fulfilled. In the end, the non-custodial parent pays the amount more than their basic needs.

Factors Considered in Child Support Calculations

Regardless of the model, courts consider several factors when arriving at a child support award. The family court judge considers the number of children in the family, including those who are not biological, and their ages. The court also notes each parent’s custodial time, childcare expenses, parents’ incomes, and any additional needs, such as counseling, special education, or medical needs.

Flexibility in Determining Child Support

Despite each state adopting a child support model for calculating child support, many family law matters lie at the judge’s discretion. Thus, if a New Jersey family law judge determines that a more suitable amount must be ordered to fulfill a specific family need, they can modify the child support amount based on these circumstances. Balancing the needs of children and parents, a court can temporarily or permanently lower a child support payment to accommodate a parent with a low income. However, all support awards are modifiable when circumstances substantially change to affect the factors that go into a support calculation. New Jersey divorce provisions may also include cost of living adjustments to child support payments.

Seeking Fairness in New Jersey’s Model

While all child support calculation models consider the support needs of the payor parent, imputed income to the payor parent (income they should be making even if they are not), the healthcare and childcare needs of children, and the custodial time of each parent, New Jersey’s child support model seems fairest to parents. When the income and expenses of both parents form the basis of a child support award, the burden of providing for children appears equally shared between the parents.

So, child support awards remind parents that the time each spends with their children defrays childrearing costs to the other parent. For example, a parent who houses, feeds, transports, and pays for all uninsured medical and educational needs of a child in their household five days a week bears the lion’s share of childrearing costs, especially if that parent also works and pays for childcare during their custodial time. The income shares model New Jersey uses to calculate support considers the contribution the non-custodial parent would pay toward those childrearing expenses had they lived in the same household while considering the non-custodial parent’s survival needs.

Pursuing Equity in New Jersey's Child Support ApproachThus, using net income values on which to base child support acknowledges people pay taxes, mandatory retirement, healthcare, and other essential costs to live in New Jersey so courts can order manageable support payments. The New Jersey calculator also accounts for what it costs to rent or pay a mortgage, pay utilities, buy clothing, eat, and enjoy entertainment each month. Other important considerations are the number of children parents support, including stepchildren a parent is responsible for and children from previous relationships, as well as the number of overnight visits with children parents share (custodial time percentage each parent has).

Therefore, the more children the parents have, the higher the child support payment, but the more time each parent spends with the children, absorbing the costs of raising children, the lower the payment. New Jersey configures child custodial time percentages on the number of overnight (12 or more hours) visits per year. Considering all these factors, a New Jersey support award assumes each parent contributes financially to the costs of raising their children in proportion to their share of the combined monthly income (both parents’ net income).

Contact Our Seasoned Child Support Lawyers to Discuss Your Situation in Neptune and Southern New Jersey

Given your family obligations, understanding how to calculate New Jersey child support payments is essential to planning your life. Splitting one household into two is challenging on many levels that are difficult to anticipate. Still, you can count on knowing your child support obligation in advance when you sit down with a family law attorney to plan your divorce or separation. Armed with knowledge, you can decide where to live, whether to keep your current job, and how much time you can spend with your children.

A knowledgeable family lawyer, such as Peter J. Bronzino, Esq., is crucial in the planning stage and at every stage of a divorce, child support hearings, or child support modification hearings. Call Bronzino Law Firm’s local offices in Brick or Sea Girt at (732) 812-3102 for a free consultation and additional child support guidance and representation in Jackson, Toms River, Holmdel, Eatontown, Stafford, Middletown, Sea Girt, or any town in Ocean and Monmouth County.