Both parents in New Jersey, whether married or unmarried, have an obligation to contribute to the financial support of their children.
Generally, child support is calculated by applying a formula known as the Child Support Guidelines that takes into consideration various factors, including but not limited to the family’s income and the amount of time each parent spends with the child. Parents earning a combined amount of more than $3,600 per week are above the Child Support Guidelines and will use the top guideline amount and then the statutory factors under N.J.S.A. 2A:34-23(a) to determine child support.
The primary factor in determining New Jersey child support is the gross incomes of both parents. Income alone does not determine the child support obligation. Other factors that determine a New Jersey child support obligation include:
- Overnight visitation time
- The children’s Health care insurance premium payments
- Unreimbursed health care costs of the children
- Work related child care payments
- Support paid for children from other relationships
- Mandatory union dues
- Mandatory retirement contributions
- Alimony paid by one parent to the other
Child support is always subject to modification upon showing of changed circumstances. Such changes of circumstances may include (but are certainly not limited to) a non-temporary, substantial change in income, whether upward or downward; change in health insurance cost for the child; maturation of the child (as older children generally have more expensive needs than younger children); a change in the amount of time the child spends in one parent’s household versus the other parent’s household; or a change in the child’s needs. A payor’s child support obligation may be increased even if no circumstances have changed other than an increase in his or her income.
Effective February 1, 2017, the child support laws in New Jersey changed.
The former law establishes 19 as the age when a child support and/or medical support obligation will end.
However, the new law allows for child and/or medical support to continue up to age 23 for cases in which:
- the dependent is still in high school; or
- the dependent is attending full-time college, vocational or graduate school; or
- the dependent is disabled; or
- the parties reached a separate agreement as to child support termination; or
- continued support was granted by the court.
This new law shifts the burden of proof onto the parent receiving the child support to demonstrate the need for the continued support and provide proof that the child falls into one of the aforementioned exceptions.
How will the process work? The NJ Department of Human Services has provided the following information:
“For families that have a child between the ages of 19 and 22 prior to July 31, 2017, the First Notice of Child Support Termination will be mailed out on February 1, 2017, with child support ending on August 1, 2017 (rather than on the child’s 19th birthday) as the new law is phased in. This Notice will contain information on how to request a continuation of child support as well as how the amount of child support may change.
If you have a dependent turning age 19 after August 1, 2017, you will receive a First Notice of Child Support Termination 180 days before your child’s 19th birthday.
If your Judgment of Divorce (JOD) or support order specifies an end date other than the dependent’s 19th birthday, that date will stand and you will not be permitted to request an administrative continuation of support. However, you still may receive a Notice of Child Support Termination and be asked to send in a copy of the JOD or order.
If no continuation of child support is requested, a second Notice of Child Support Termination will be sent out 90 days before the dependent’s 19th birthday. If no continuation is requested after receiving the second notice, the order of support will end as of the child’s 19th birthday, and both parties will receive an update reflecting this change. (Note that if back child support is owed, the non-custodial parent still is responsible for paying that off.)
If you receive an updated order for continued support and wish to oppose it, you may file an application or motion with the court. If there are younger children on the order in addition to the 19-year-old (or older) child(ren), parents may need to file an application or motion with the court to adjust the child support amount.
If your JOD or support order calls for child support to continue beyond the dependent’s 19th birthday - if they are in college, for example - you will receive a Final Notice of Child Support Termination 90 days before the dependent’s 23rd birthday (or other extended termination date) informing you that the child support will end.
In order to ensure that all notices and informational updates are received, please confirm that the Child Support Program has your most current mailing address, cell phone number and email address.“
If support arrears exist when support terminates, the arrears will remain due and enforceable. The new law determines how payment for such arrears will be made, as the “sum of the recurring child support obligation in effect immediately prior to the effective date of termination plus any arrears repayment obligation in effect immediately prior to the effective date of termination” unless otherwise ordered.
These changes may have onerous effects on the parent receiving child support. It is critical that newly drafted agreements reference these changes and address them.
Some helpful links:
"What is Included in Child Support Under the Child Support Guidelines?,” by William J. Rudnik, New Jersey Family Lawyer, Vol. 36, No. 3, December 2015.
NJ Dept. of Human Services, Child Support
Considerations in the Child Support Guidelines
Given the complexities involved with Child Support, we advise you to contact one of Gebhardt & Kiefer’s experienced family law attorneys at 908-735-5161. We handle support and family law issues throughout New Jersey.