In New Jersey, the idea for the creation of child support guidelines was because the Court holds that: (1) child support is a continuous obligation of both parents, (2) children are entitled to share in the current income of both parents, and (3) children should not be the economic victims of divorce or out-of-wedlock birth.” N.J. Court Rules Appendix IX.
The guidelines tries to allocate the cost of raising a child or children equitably between the parents. This means in a fair manner because family courts are courts of equity. The guidelines determine the amount of money it will take to raise your child/children depending on the child’s or children’s age(s) and the income of both parents. The Guidelines then allocate that cost between both parents dependent upon their respective incomes. The guidelines apply to parties whose combined net incomes are greater than $170/week ($8,840/year) and less than $3,600/week ($187,200/year). Incomes above or below these criteria must be agreed upon by the parties or determined by the court.
If one parent is not working, the court can, under certain circumstances, impute income to that individual. If the court finds that one parent is underemployed or purposefully unemployed, income can be imputed to them as well. Imputation means the court will calculate the child support obligation “as if” that parent is making a certain amount of money (i.e., the amount the court decides based on several factors). That would mean whether you are making that amount of money or not, your child support obligation will remain in place until further order of the court.
Child support can change. It can change when one parent makes more or less income. It can change if a child is emancipated, as determined by the court or agreed upon by the parties. It can change once a child is off to college. Once a child attends college, the Guidelines are no longer applicable because there are many duplicate expenditures between the Guidelines and costs associated with college (e.g. room, board, transportation). However, if the child attends college but continues to live at home, the court does have the discretion to apply the Guidelines in determining support.
If you have a question about the child support you are paying or receiving, contact one of our attorneys, who can help you find the right answer.