Child support is the continuous duty of both parents and their children are entitled to be financially supported in accordance with the economic status of each parent.
Child support for children whose parents' joint net annual income is below $150,800 is determined by established guidelines found in the New Jersey Court Rules, Appendix IX-A. The guidelines are based upon estimates of what intact families spend on their children. These estimates factor in the child's share of expenses for housing, food, clothing, transportation, entertainment, unreimbursed health care and miscellaneous items. Expenses that are not included in the guidelines are: child care, health insurance, private school, and unreimbursed health care costs. As such, the court may, in addition to basic child support, add additional obligations upon the parties to pay for these expenses.
If the parents' joint net income picture exceeds $150,800, the child support award is calculated up to that amount, considering that as the minimum child support award. Then certain additional factors specified in N.J.S.A. 2A:34-23a are evaluated to supplement the child support amount. Those factors include:
- The needs of the child;
- The standard of living and economic circumstances of each parent;
- All sources of income and assets of each parent;
- The earning ability of each parent, including educational background, training, employment skills, work experience, custodial responsibility for children (including the cost of providing child care), and the length of time and cost of each parent to obtain training or experience for appropriate employment;
- The need and capacity of the child for education, including higher education;
- The age and health of the child and each parent;
- The income, assets, and earning ability of the child;
- Responsibility of the parents for the court-ordered support of others;
- Reasonable debts and liabilities of each child and parent; and
- Any other factors the court may consider relevant
For any NJ court proceeding or settlement that will include an award of child support, a child support guideline worksheet must be completed. Appendix IX of the New Jersey Court Rules contains two worksheets for this purpose. One is to be used in "sole parenting" (where the non-custodial parent has less than 28% of overnight time with the child) and the other in "shared parenting" (where the non-custodial parent has 29% or more overnight time with the child and can prove that separate living accommodations for the child are provided). In a shared-parenting situation, the court considers three broad categories of expenses (fixed, variable, and controlled) and apportions those expenses to each parent in proportion to the parents' relative incomes, not in proportion to the time spent with the children. Each of these worksheets provides the court with information on the parents' overnight parenting schedule, income, alimony obligation, other child support obligations, child care costs, and health insurance costs for the child. This information is vital in determining the amount of child support a court shall award. Like alimony awards, child support may be awarded pendente lite, that is, temporarily, while the litigation is pending and until a final determination of the child support award is made by the court or by agreement.