New Jersey Law on Waiver of Child Support Obligations
Across the US, the American family structure has become no longer just one norm. Many children divide their time between two homes with parents who are divorced, separated, or never married and no longer together but share a child.
When a marriage or relationship between a couple with children ends, a new chapter begins, and what it may look like can vary greatly. While some parents who are no longer together choose to outline custody and child support agreements through the courts for others, establishing any part of parenthood in an official and documented capacity may seem off-putting, or one party makes it more challenging. One or both parents may wonder if child support can be waived, settled outside of court, or adjusted. The text below addresses and examines these issues.
Is it Possible to Waive Child Support in New Jersey?
Supporting your child is a paramount responsibility. In matters of family law, a child’s needs are of the highest priority, and financial support is a substantial part of those needs. Under NJ law, child support (financial support) is mandatory for both parents.
Child support is not only a parent’s duty but the right of a child to receive and benefit from, so it may not be waived. Both parents should share the financial needs of their child or children. Under the Termination of Child Support Law in New Jersey, child support is typically provided until the child reaches the age of 19; however, some exceptions may extend the length of child support to the age of 23.
If Parents Reach an Agreement, Can They Waive Child Support in NJ?
The above question can be interpreted in two ways: can parents agree to not supplying child support? Or can they decide to no child support through the courts but still provide for their child financially?
The parent’s legal obligation is to provide for their children in a manner that matches other parents in the same financial situation, ensuring their children’s needs are met. Parents who separate, divorce, or break up do not have to establish a child support arrangement through the court. However, it is crucial to note that even when parents work out their child support agreement that encompasses their child’s needs and the stipulations under the law, the agreement is not legally binding. In such instances, either party could stop upholding their obligations without a court order in place. Suppose two parents share one child. Parent A has the child Monday through Friday, and Parent B on the weekends. The custodial parent (Parent A, who has and supports the child for most of each week) may find it incredibly challenging if parent B suddenly stops providing the mutually agreed upon child support payments. Parent A would now have to file for child support through the county welfare office or family court. During the calculation and determination of child support, Parent A would bear all the financial burden, and the child may suffer financially. Thus, it is prudent to establish child support formally and legally before such issues occur. A family law attorney can help you request child support.
Lastly, regarding both parents agreeing to not financially provide for their child, electing to skip child support is not permitted under the law and would endanger the child’s welfare.
Patetta v. Patetta Case Decision
In the case of Patetta v. Patetta, the court found that the father was responsible for child support payments for his three children. A final divorce order was entered in 1993, along with a property agreement. According to the agreement, the plaintiff and father, Nicholas Patetta, would be obliged to provide $50 per child per week in support. In addition, the support would be required for the established amount until emancipation, meaning a child turning 18 years old, getting married, employed full-time, or dying. Under the property settlement agreement, both parents would make their most diligent effort to provide financial assistance for the children’s college or secondary vocational pursuits. The parent’s financial help for college would come after scholarships, grants, and other resources were exhausted and be based on the economic situation of each parent.
Plaintiff Nicholas Patetta argued that he should not have to pay child support because his son turned 18. The mother, defendant JoAnn Patetta, requested the child support continue as her son, Nicholas Junior, was in community college. As the expenses were not high, she had not asked for financial assistance, but her son was living in her home, and she was financially providing for his needs (and the son was not eligible for financial aid or scholarships). The court found that the father had a duty to continue to support his child as emancipation does not have to do with a particular age but is primarily founded in necessity and the right of the child in question.
Difference Between Child Support and Alimony for Waiving Payment
The non-custodial parent typically pays child support to the custodial parent to help raise a child and ensure their needs are met to secure their well-being and welfare. On the other hand, alimony is typically paid by the higher-earning spouse to the lower-earning spouse after a divorce to help them maintain their standard of living. Child support payments are generally not waived, as they are considered necessary for the child’s care and are in the child’s best interest and the child’s right to receive them. Alimony payments may be waived if the couple agrees or the court orders it.
Who Has the Final Word if Child Support Can be Waived?
Neither parent may waive the right to child support on behalf of their child. However, in instances where a custodial parent can financially support the child on their own and requests to waive child support for the non-custodial parent under specific circumstances, the court may allow a child support waiver. However, this is a bit of a gray area and does not ultimately waive the child’s right to seek child support from that parent. Other circumstances in which a judge may agree to waive child support payments include when two parents reestablish their union as a couple or waive back amounts of child support (again unique to each case and its surrounding details).
Adjustment Approval Below the Guidelines Amount
Generally, New Jersey’s Child Support Guidelines determine child support orders. A parent may be eligible for a child support modification from the New Jersey child support guidelines under extenuating or compelling circumstances. Modifications or adjustments may stem from a change in the child’s needs or the parent’s circumstances. For example, a child’s educational or healthcare needs may evolve, or a parent may become unemployed, have other changes in income, or become disabled. The request for modifications or adjustments must be made in writing utilizing the guidelines worksheet if a deviation from the guidelines is needed. Any change or modification is ultimately determined and resolved by the court. Therefore, the first step is filing a motion with the court.
Can a Child Terminate Child Support Payments?
There is not a definitive answer to the above question, as its answer would depend on a case’s specific circumstances. However, in general, a child would be unable to stop or terminate child support payments unilaterally. If the child support payments are court-ordered, the child must petition the court to modify or discontinue the support order.
Discuss Your Case with a Toms River Attorney
A lawyer who concentrates in family law and has over 10 years of experience handling all aspects of divorce, child custody, child support, domestic violence, alimony, division of assets, prenuptial agreements, and other family law matters, Attorney Peter J. Bronzino ESQ, is highly prepared and committed to assisting you with your case. Mr. Bronzino and our team at Bronzino Law Firm can answer questions regarding child support orders, adjustments and modifications, unpaid support, and other related legal matters. In addition, we can devise agreements, handle appropriate paperwork, draft and file necessary motions, and skillfully represent you in court. Your attorney at our Ocean and Monmouth County law firm can inform you of your rights, help you assert them, review all applicable laws with you, and ensure that you understand your child support responsibilities and can confidently take the right steps forward.
Contact an experienced Family Law and Child Support Attorney at (732) 812-3102 for a free and confidential consultation about your case in Colts Neck, Long Branch, Asbury Park, Brick, Holmdel, Stafford, Ocean Township, Point Pleasant, and surrounding communities.