In New Jersey, the obligation of parents to provide financial support for their biological or adopted children is constant, but the amount and duration of that obligation depends fully on a multitude of factors. When questions arise regarding a parent’s obligations, the determination as to amount and extent can be resolved either through negotiation or New Jersey Family Court.
When Does a Child Support Obligation Exist in New Jersey?
Under New Jersey law, a parent owes an obligation of support to his or her biological or adopted child to ensure that the child’s emotional and financial needs are met. That obligation exists regardless of whether the mother and father of the child were married. In some instances, the support requirement is acknowledged by the parent, and the parent agrees to financially and/or emotionally support the child. In other instances, a parent must rely on the court to create a finding of obligation for support through the establishment of parentage and the entry of an order for support.
New Jersey Child Support Agreements
In some situations, a mother and father are able to mutually agree on the terms of emotional and financial support due to a child. Those agreements will outline which parent is responsible for financial support, the amount of that support, the terms under which support will be provided, and when the financial support will end. The parents agree to these terms, which are legally binding upon each parent. Sometimes parents in New Jersey are able to reach an understanding without the involvement of attorneys; however, the involvement of an attorney can be beneficial for all parties as it can provide clarity regarding the underlying legal obligations of each parent. If one parent fails to adhere to the agreement, the other can seek court enforcement of the agreement to ensure payment.
Court-Ordered Child Support in New Jersey
In situations where parents are unable to agree on support terms, or in situations where a person denies being the parent of a child, the only recourse available is court-ordered child support.
In New Jersey, parents can apply to the courts for the entry of an order regarding parentage, where the court finds that an individual is or is not the parent of a child. This is often necessary in situations where a child was born out of wedlock, and the father denies that the child is his. In the absence of a legal finding that the man is the father of the child, New Jersey courts cannot enter an order requiring payment of child support.
Whether parentage is determined by the court or agreed to beforehand by the parents, the court may still be asked to make a determination regarding the proper amount of support owed by each of the parents. In those situations, there are guidelines that the courts follow in making a determination of the proper amount.
Guidelines Used By Courts to Determine Child Support Amounts
In New Jersey, the courts examine many different factors in assigning the proper support amount for a child. Those factors include the income of the parents, the child’s accustomed standard of living, educational expenses, and medical expenses, to name a few. The amount assigned by the court is fact-sensitive, meaning that analysis of each specific situation by an experienced New Jersey family law attorney prior to hearing is the best way for a parent to understand the possible amount of support.
However, what a parent can be relatively certain of is his or her share of the child’s support amount. New Jersey apportions the support amount based on the joint incomes of the parents. For example, if a father’s income represents 70 percent of the couple’s total income, and the court finds that the child needs a total of $500 per month in support, the father will be responsible for covering $350 of that $500, either in direct payments (if the father is the non-custodial parent) or through in-kind support (if the father is the custodial parent).
When Does the Child Support Obligation End?
Much like the finding of the obligation amount itself, the term of the child support obligation can be agreed to by the parents outside of court, or the court can be asked to enter an order outlining the time period for payments. Ultimately, the term depends on a large number of factors, including the income of the custodial parent, the income of the child, the age of the child, the educational desires of the child, and the availability of student loans. Generally speaking, however, the child support obligation ends when the child attains the age of 18, is emancipated, or is no longer a college student.
What is the Child Support Termination Law?
Recently, New Jersey created a law that is designed to ensure that the parent’s child support obligation terminates without the parent needing to return to court for termination. Prior to this law, in the absence of a court order termination support, the obligation could continue to run, creating massive debts that could be enforced by the court or other parent.
Under the new law, child support obligations automatically end when the child reaches 19 years of age, unless an exception exists; however, in no instance does the child support obligation extend past the child’s 23 year.
Contact a Family Law Attorney Concerning Your Child Support Issues in New Jersey
If you have questions about the amount of child support you could be required to pay, or questions about the enforceability of your current child support agreement, or whether the amount owed can be changed, you should not seek to resolve these questions in court without experienced legal counsel. An attorney familiar with New Jersey child support laws will be able to advise you regarding your rights and the likelihood of success regarding your questions prior to court, giving you the ability to make an informed decision about your next steps. The law firm of Nitti & Nitti, Attorneys at Law, are ready to help guide you through your child support questions. Contact the firm today for a free consultation.
The articles on this blog are for informative purposes only and are no substitute for legal advice or an attorney-client relationship. If you are seeking legal advice, please contact our law firm directly.