Who Must Pay Child Support in New Jersey?
Under New Jersey law, both parents are responsible for financially supporting their children. Support is treated as if a divorce or separation never happened and is necessary to pay for all costs associated with raising a child, including school, clothing, food, shelter, and medical care. Just like they would if the divorce never happened.
In most cases, the court will designate one parent as the custodial parent (the child primarily lives with) and the other as the non-custodial parent (the child does not primarily live with).
It is assumed the custodial parent pays more in support, which means the non-custodial parent usually will pay child support to the custodial parent under this arrangement.
How is Child Support Determined in New Jersey?
Child support is determined by the New Jersey Child Support Guidelines.
The guidelines are based on an income-share formula that uses the incomes of both parents as a primary part of reaching an appropriate amount. The guidelines also consider expenses, such as child care, medical insurance, and any factor the court deems best for the child.
Courts also use the following factors to determine child support amounts:
- Whether your child is currently employed and has a steady income
- What your family’s standard of living has been before the divorce
- You and your spouse’s economic circumstances
- Your child’s needs
- The age and health of both you and your spouse
- The number of children currently living in your household
- You and your spouse’s earning capacity, as well as your education
- Any other factors that New Jersey courts deem relevant to your specific case
When both parents can agree on a child support amount based on the guidelines, a Consent Support Agreement is established, and no court appearance is necessary.
However, if either parent does not agree on the amount of support or there are other issues to be settled, you will have to go to the Family Court of New Jersey Superior Court at your county courthouse.
If you go to court, you can go on your own or with the help of a lawyer.
A request for child support is called a complaint, and you or your local child support office can file it. The Family Court will schedule the hearing and notify both parents of the date, time, and place.
Your case may be heard by a child support hearing officer or a judge who will listen to the case and make the decision. All orders are reviewed and signed by a judge. Courts have the discretion to deviate from the statewide guideline formula after a finding of good cause.
Before you go to court, it’s possible to get an estimate of how much a child support order will be using the state’s online support calculator to get an estimate.
New Jersey provides several tables and worksheets to help parents determine child support obligations, including the following:
- Use of Child Support Guidelines: General Information
- Child Support Guidelines: Sole Parenting Worksheet
- Child Support Guidelines: Shared Parenting Worksheet
- Child Support Guidelines: Net Child Care Cost Worksheet
- Basic Schedule of Child Support Awards
In cases where the child lives with only the custodial parent, the NJ child support court will use Appendix IX-C, Sole Parenting Worksheet, to calculate each parent’s net income.
Courts often use Appendix IX-D, Shared Parenting Worksheet when a child spends at least 28% and less than 50% with the non-custodial parent.
Read More: Divorce Laws in New Jersey
Factors that Impact Child Support in New Jersey
When a court determines it is appropriate to deviate from the Child Support Guidelines, a judge considers several factors:
- The child’s specific need.
- The parents’ respective lifestyles and what standard of living the child is used to.
- All sources of income of the parents, including assets that are non-income producing assets.
- All sources of debt for the parents and the child.
- Each parent’s earning capacities, educational histories, skills, and work experience.
- The roles each parent has taken in the child’s life to date.
- The expenses for which each parent has historically paid for the benefit of the child;
- The need and ability of the child for higher education.
- The child’s age, health income and assets, and earning ability.
- The responsibility of the respective parents for the court-ordered support of others.
The court may also consider other factors such as an equitable distribution of property, property and income taxes, reimbursed and unreimbursed medical expenses, private school expenses, student loans or other debts in the child’s name, and the tax advantages of paying a child’s expenses.
What if a parent is voluntarily underemployed?
If the court believes a parent is ducking a child support responsibility, assigning a higher income is possible. This is called the “imputation of income.”
The court can consider a parent’s earning ability based on educational background, training, employment skills, work experience, and the length of time and cost of each parent to obtain training or experience for appropriate employment.
Are there different rules for higher-income families?
New Jersey defines high-income families as those that make over $187,200 annually.
To adjust for these additional costs, New Jersey courts will use Appendix IX-A to determine the base child support level. Next, they will look at financial disclosures and other documents to calculate any supplemental income needed to ensure the child maintains the same living standards for private schooling, daycare and summer camps, sports and hobbies, and vacations.
What are the child support rules for teenage parents?
If you are a parent under 18, you’re still responsible for your child’s financial and emotional well-being. As a minor, your parents or legal guardians will work with you to take the actions necessary to make sure your child gets support. However, teen parents have the right to establish paternity on their own without the consent of a parent or legal guardian.
What if a parent has been called up to active military duty?
Servicemembers and their families have unique child support needs.
New Jersey has created a Handbook for Military Families that answers several questions, such as notifying the state about a change of address and employment, possible support modification based on active service,
It’s also important to note that military members called to active duty are protected under the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act (SCRA). The SCRA is to allow United States military personnel to devote their full attention to the defense of our nation by temporarily suspending judicial and administrative civil proceedings that may impact their rights.
If your child support order includes health care coverage for your child, you may also be eligible to obtain coverage through the military health benefits plan (TRICARE or DEERS).
Read More: How Does a Supervised Visitation Order Work?
Is Health Insurance Considered a Part of Child Support?
A child support obligation is intended to cover several needs in a child’s life, and health insurance is one of those. Parents with access to reasonably priced insurance through an employer or other means may be required to provide coverage.
Extraordinary medical expenses not covered by insurance may also require designated support. This might be for extended illnesses, braces, and other conditions not normally covered by insurance.
When Does Child Support End in New Jersey?
Both parents typically share in support until a child reaches the age of 18 or graduates high school. However, there are several cases in which child support can end earlier or extend past the age of 18, including:
- The child enlists in the military
- The child becomes financially independent
- The child marries
- The child passes away
Support may extend past 19 in the following circumstances:
- The child is still in high school
- The child enrolls in college and needs support
- The child has a disability or medical condition that requires additional and continuous financial assistance
Are Parents Required to Pay for College?
Parents must take care of their children until they are emancipated. Children are often still financially dependent on their parents while attending college or other similar programs. New Jersey courts may require parents to pay for the child’s basic needs in cases like this.
When college is part of a child’s future, a parent can request that the courts extend support payments until the child turns 23.
Paying for college is treated on a case-by-case basis. Factors that could influence ongoing support can include:
- Whether the parent, if still living with the child, would have contributed toward the costs requested in higher education
- The effect of the background, values, and goals of the parent on the reasonable expectations of the child for higher education
- The amount of the contribution sought by the child for the cost of higher education
- The ability of the parents to pay that cost
- The relationship of the requested contribution to the kind of school or course of study sought by the child
- The financial resources of both parents
- The commitment to and aptitude of the child for the requested education
- The financial resources of the child, including assets owned individually or held in custodianship or trust
- The ability of the child to earn income during the school year or on vacation
- The availability of financial aid in the form of college grants, loans, and scholarships
- The child’s relationship with the paying parent, including the mutual affection and shared goals as well as responsiveness to the parental advice and guidance
- The relationship of the education requested to any prior training as the prior overall goals of the child
When college is part of a child’s future, a parent can request that the courts extend support payments until the child turns 23.
Both parents may contribute proportionately based on their individual financial condition and after the child has exhausted all other possible financial resources, such as 529s, trusts, savings, and other forms of financial support.
Establishing Paternity in New Jersey
Paternity must be established to create the same legal relationship between unmarried parents and their children. If the parents were married when a child was born, the husband is the presumed legal father noted on the child’s birth certificate. Child support can’t be ordered until paternity has been legally established.
Legal paternity also creates certain rights:
- Obtaining health insurance, if it is available through an employer.
- Protecting the child’s rights to benefits if the father dies, such as money or property left in a will, veteran’s benefits, or Social Security benefits.
- Ensuring a link to the child’s past.
When a father agrees that a child is his, he signs a document called a Certificate of Parentage (COP), which legally names him as the father.
A father can sign a COP at the hospital right after a baby’s birth. COPs can also be signed after leaving the hospital at a state or county registrar or local welfare office. A worker in the child support office in your county can help you with this, or you can call 1-877-NJKIDS1.
Genetic testing can be ordered if a father disagrees a child is theirs. Either parent may request the test, or it can be required by the county office or ordered by the court. This simple test can be done with a small sample of saliva.
Both parents and the child must be tested. If the test scores 95% or higher, the man is presumed to be the father.
Enforcing New Jersey Child Support Orders
If a parent is ordered to pay child support payments but falls behind or refuses to pay, New Jersey can invoke several possible enforcement measures.
Unpaid child support is a debt and is referred to as arrears. New Jersey uses a computerized system to record and monitor the amount of child support due and paid.
When child support is in arrears, the Child Support Program can use any of the following enforcement tools:
- Income withholding
- Credit reporting
- Lottery prize intercept
- Tax refund offset
- Seizure of assets
- License suspension – driver’s, professional or recreational
- Passport denial
- Civil awards/settlements
- Court enforcement
- New Hires Directory
Modifying New Jersey Child Support Payments
Child support payments in New Jersey can be modified when a requesting entity shows “changed circumstances” such as:
- A has lost their home
- A parent has contracted a serious illness or sustained a serious injury
- Their child has suffered a serious injury or contracted a medical condition
- One parent recently took a significant pay cut or lost their job
- There has been a change in federal income tax laws
- One parent is now living with another person or has remarried
- A parent has received a job promotion or has come into a large sum of money
Either parent can petition the court for a modification of their child support agreement to either increase payments or decrease payments at any time.
Every request to modify child support requires the completion of a Case Information Statement that provides the court, both parents, and attorneys with complete economic information that details a parent’s income, expenses, assets, and liabilities.
You can get complete information by downloading and reviewing the New Jersey Child Support Modification Kit.
Child Support and Taxes
Child support paid is not deductible by the payer. If you receive child support, it is not taxable to the recipient. Don’t include child support payments received when you calculate your gross income.
However, you may be able to claim the child as a dependent. Generally, the custodial parent is treated as one who provides more than half of the child’s support. In some cases, the other parent may be treated as the parent who provided more than half of the child’s support.
Many agreements include a provision that each parent declares half the children as dependents when there is an even number of children. Parents can alternate years claiming the child for an odd number of children. In this situation, parents may need to submit Form 8332, Release/Revocation of Release of Claim to Exemption for Child by Custodial Parent, or a similar statement.
How Do I Ask for Child Support?
There are several ways to request child support in New Jersey. If both parents agree on the terms, they may ask a judge to approve a support order in a civil case such as a divorce or other family law proceeding.
The CSA provides several services, including assisting a parent in locating the non-custodial parent, establishing paternity and support obligations, payment collection and distribution, and enforcing support obligations through the Probation Division.
Read More: How to File For Divorce in New Jersey
Which Agency Handles Child Support in New Jersey?
The New Jersey Department of Human Services, Division of Family Development, Child Support, and Paternity Program handles child support issues in the state.
“Title IV-D case” means any case in which the child support enforcement agency is enforcing the child support order under Title IV of the Social Security Act. Services include:
- Location of the obligor
- Establishing paternity
- Establishing child support and medical support
- Collection and monitoring of support payments
- Income withholding
- Enforcement of a support order
- Tax refund intercept
- Lottery intercept
- Suspension/denial of passport
- Bank account levy
- Judgment processing
- Credit reporting
- Review and adjustment of the order
The program does not assist with visitation and alimony issues.
The child support program is supervised by the state and administered by each county. County welfare agencies are responsible for providing assistance in the location of non-custodial parents, establishing paternity, and obtaining orders for child and medical support.
The Division of Family Development also has cooperative agreements with several public agencies to assist the program’s administration, including the Administrative Office of the Courts, County Sheriff Departments, and the Department of Labor.
To find local offices, use the Child Support finder tool.
How Do Non-Custodial Parents Make Child Support Payments?
New Jersey automatically deducts child support payments from the non-custodial parent’s income in nearly all cases. In this case, income can include employment wages, unemployment benefits, Social Security and disability payments, or any other form of incoming funds.
For cases without automatic withholding, a court will instruct the parent how much and how often to pay child support via cash, check money order, or several online options.
Regardless of how non-custodial parents pay, the New Jersey Family Support Payment Center collects these payments and coordinates distribution to the custodial parent. New Jersey only allows custodial parents to receive support via direct deposit or the New Jersey Debit MasterCard.