Are you faced with having to pay child support or perhaps you want to amend the custody order issued by Family Court? In either case, it will help to better understand exactly how the State of New Jersey figures out just how much should be included in that monthly check. It should be noted that the calculations use extensive spreadsheets and definitions to come to an amount. While this article provides a quick overview of the process, your Bergen County child support lawyer will be able to supply you with the specific equations used in your case.
Which Parent Has Custody
In New Jersey, either parent can be awarded total custody by the courts or the parents can share custody. If the child spends more time at one parent’s home than the other, then the parent that cares for the child more often is more likely to receive child support payments. If time is truly split 50/50 by the parents, it is possible that no child support will be demanded by Family Court.
The Income of the Custodial and Non-Custodial Parent
In our modern times, it is less common for a single parent to remain a stay-at-home parent receiving complete support to care for a child. In most cases, the income earned by both parents is taken into consideration. Should one parent earn more than the other, they will end up paying a proportionally larger part of the childcare, as in a two-parent home the child would benefit from both incomes. If you make less than the custodial parent, you may still have to pay some support.
Cost of School or Daycare
Should you need to leave your child in daycare in order to earn a living, that cost will be included in the support payment calculation. However, you should not expect to place the child in the most expensive school and expect the other parent to foot the bill if you cannot afford it. The courts expect the cost of childcare to stay in line with the family’s standard of living. The same applies to tuition to private or parochial schools up to the age of 18.
The Number of Children in the Custodial Household
The state uses a complex calculation to determine how much it costs to raise a child. It also takes into consideration how many other children are living in the household, figuring that it will cost less per child to cover rent, utilities, and other services shared by everyone in the home. Thus, a single parent living with one child can expect to receive a higher support payment per child compared to a parent living with several kids.
Healthcare Insurance and Out-of-Pocket Expenses
The non-custodial parent will be expected to share in all required medical expenses for the child. Elective procedures may or may not be part of child support, depending on the parents’ agreements and the court findings. Beyond standard insurance premiums and co-pays, these expenses can also include OTC medications, first aid, and counseling services.
Alimony Paid to the Custodial Parent
If you and the other parent have gone through a divorce, any alimony paid to one of the parents will be taken into consideration when calculating child support, but more in line with income not as part of child support. Alimony is meant to compensate the divorcee for loss of marital assets and to help maintain their standard of living. It is not meant to cover the cost of raising a child.
The Customary Standard of Living
What about that standard of living? If you were the primary earner in the household prior to a divorce or separation and the child goes to live with the parent that has no income of their own, your child support payments are intended to maintain your child in the manner in which they lived with the entire family unit. This means if you ate out at restaurants four times a week, the child should expect that activity to continue. Entertainment, after-school programs, lessons, clubs, and vacations are all taken into consideration when determining the support payment.
Does the Father Always Pay?
Times are changing, and in New Jersey the courts do not have a stated preference for who gets custody in any set circumstance. Either parent can be awarded sole custody of the child or the parents can share time. Above and beyond what tradition stipulates, Family Court is committed to protecting the health and happiness of the child. For this reason, the mother or father can end up paying child support.
Ultimately, sorting out how much child support and who pays the bills is complicated. If you have gone beyond the realm of calm and collected negotiation with the child’s other parent, you ought to consult a Bergen County child support lawyer to help you create a realistic accounting of costs and present them at your next hearing. You are, after all, protecting the welfare of your child.