Child support in New Jersey is determined using the state’s child support guidelines. A worksheet evidencing the calculations to arrive at the child support order should be completed in every case. Primary considerations include the income of the parties and the custody arrangements. As it relates to the custody arrangements, there are different worksheets for use: sole parenting or shared parenting. The sole parenting worksheet is to be utilized when one parent has all the time or greater than 78% of the overnights. The shared parenting worksheet is appropriate if the alternate parent has the equivalent of at least two overnights per week under the regular schedule.
The other primary consideration is income. For purposes of a support calculation, income includes all earned or unearned income including, but not limited to, salary/wages, tips, commissions, interest/dividends, rent received, bonuses, alimony payments, pension or retirement distributions, lawsuit settlements, worker’s compensation, unemployment benefits, severance pay, gambling winnings. For self-employed individuals income consists of the gross receipts of the business minus necessary business expenses. What may be acceptable as an expense as far as filing taxes with the IRS is not necessarily an expense that would be deducted in a support calculation.
Accurate income information should be disclosed as part of the Case Information Statement submitted in virtually every family court action. Verification of the income information provided should be attached. Examples include tax returns, W-2 statements, pay stubs, profit/loss statements, etc. Taxes, prior child support orders, mandatory union dues should be subtracted from the gross taxable income and combined with any gross non-taxable income to determine the amount of income available for support. Certain benefits for the children must also be accounted for in determining income such as derivative benefits (e.g. Social Security Disability).
The basic child support award is arrived at by looking at the total number of children and the combined net income of the parents. Once the basic support award is identified, adjustments can be made for other regularly occurring expenses such as child care costs, health insurance costs, and other recurring expenses. The final figure is then broken down based on each parent’s percentage share of the combined income also taking into consideration the parenting time.
In low income cases, the final figure may still be adjusted to ensure the party owing support has an appropriate self-support reserve.
Child support is modifiable as circumstances change. For example, any substantial change in income or overnight custody time should be examined to see if a change in support is warranted. New Jersey builds in a routine cost-of-living adjustment for all support orders. Methods of payment can include direct payment, direct payment through the Probation Department or wage garnishment. The Probation Department is responsible for enforcement of all support orders.