Determining the Amount of Child Support
Generally, child support payments are for the ordinary expenses of food, shelter, clothing, education and medication needs for the children only. In determining child support, a court will look at all the following issues:
The Needs of the Children - For example, an ill or developmentally disabled child will often require a higher level of support than a healthy child.
The Age of the Children - Infants and younger children often cost less to support than older children. However, daycare costs, which can be significant, will also be taken into account.
The Ability of the Non-custodial Parent to Pay - The court will look at income from all sources when it decides on the amount of child support. Generally your ability to pay does not include calculations of bills and debts such as car payments, credit cards, etc. If the non-custodial parent marries again, the court will usually not look at the new spouse's income. However, there are some exceptions. The court will consider a new spouse's income if one of the following occurs:
(1) The parent paying the child support claims that s/he is unable to pay because of debts.
(2) "Voluntary Impoverishment" - The court may look at a new spouse's income if the custodial parent claims that the parent who owes
the support has left a job voluntarily in order to avoid paying child support.
(3) There is a claim that the parent paying child support is hiding assets.
Earning Capacity of the Custodial Parent - Both parents have the duty to support
their children, not just the paying parent. The court will also look at the
earnings of the custodial parent. In particular the court will look at the
resources which are available to support the children. The court may also look
at your capacity to earn more money. The court may also consider the income of a
new spouse when determining child support levels.
The Other Responsibilities of the Parents - The court will also look at the other lawful responsibilities of both parents. For example, if the non-custodial parent is paying child support from a previous marriage, the court will consider that obligation also. Necessities of life, such as rent and food will also be considered by the court. However, the court will not reduce child support payments to make it easier for you to pay discretionary obligations. For example, a parent cannot buy an expensive car instead of providing for his or her own children.
New Jersey has passed a law requiring the courts to use Child Support Guidelines in all child support cases. The Guideline's amount is the correct amount. However, you can argue that the Guidelines amounts are wrong. First you must complete the Guidelines and show the amount. Then you can then explain your concerns in the comments section of the Guidelines.
Parents cannot agree to not support their children. The state legislature decided that "the law and policy of this State is that the child's best interest is of paramount importance and cannot be altered by the parties. A parent has a legal obligation to provide support for the child [in proportion to their gross earnings]."
The math to determine the Guideline amount is fairly simple. The Legislature provided a form which must be followed. The Child Support Calculator follows the Guidelines and is an easy way to avoid doing the math yourself. However, here is an overview for those who are interested.
1. Determine the gross monthly income of each parent.
2. Determine the percentage: (Divide the mother's Adjusted Income by the Combined Total Adjusted Income,. Divide the father's Adjusted Income by the Combined Total Adjusted Income.)
3. Obtain the basic child support amount from the table
4. Add to the table amount (if relevant):
5. Equals the total support obligation
6. Multiply the total support obligation by each parent's percentage share of income (line 2). This is the presumed correct amount of child support.
There is a separate form for situations where the parents share physical custody of the children.