Child Support Guidelines

Many parents want to believe their children are “gifted,” but do they know that this “giftedness” may increase their child support obligations?

Judge Jones’ new published (precedential) opinion, P.S. v. J.S. highlighted the distinction between a regular old “extra-curricular activity” and the pursuits of a “gifted” child, reaffirming that, where a child is “gifted,” the

Many divorce or support proceedings involve the issue of who is going to pay for extracurricular activities.  Who is paying for sports?  Band?  Social clubs?  Art?  Drama and more?

skating pic

While settlement agreements commonly have a separate payment allocation for such expenses from the basic child support obligation – commonly in proportion to the parties’ respective

Child support in New Jersey for parties with combined net (after tax) income of less than $187,200 per year ($3,600 per week), are supposed to be determined based upon the Child Support Guidelines.  The Guidelines are based upon economic data of what it costs to raise a child.

indexThat economic data has been reviewed and, as a result, there are proposed changes to the child support guidelines that may actually see the figures going down, especially for multiple children. The Supreme Court has published the proposed changes on the Court’s website.

As noted in the New Jersey Law Journal, the state Supreme Court’s Family Practice Committee is recommending rule revisions that would allow child-support determinations to be based on a broader and more accurate picture of family spending. Specifically, the committee urges adoption of a new award schedule that “for the first time captures spending in families over a twelve year period,” from 2000 through 2011, which “encompasses prosperous years, recession years and the current slow recovery years.”

For sake of reference, at the highest level, the weekly amount of child support to be apportioned between both parents based upon their percentage shares of net income is follows:

No. of Children            1          2          3              4          5          6         

Current                         $453    $606    $658    $733    $806    $877

Proposed                     $571    $589    $731    $803    $884    $973


Continue Reading Will New Jersey Child Support Awards Be Going Down?

I recently read a quote from Joseph Addison, an eighteenth century British author, which said, “Husband a lie, and trump it up in some extraordinary emergency.” It lead me to consider how family law attorneys categorize the notion of an emergency, often with a mixture of histrionics and hysteria, in contrast with how the rest of the world does.

In the world of family law, emergencies are governed almost exclusively by the filing of the well-conceived and ill-named Order to Show Cause. R. 4:52-1 of the New Jersey Court Rules governs the filing of an Order to Show Cause in most scenarios in Family Court, when we are seeking temporary restraints or injunctive relief. It addresses the standard for filing an emergent application, which we all know by heart by now is, that immediate and irreparable damage will probably result to a party or the parties’ child(ren), unless an Order is entered immediately.

As a former law clerk and current family law practitioner, I have a unique perspective on both the utilization and exploitation of the Order to Show Cause.  What was designed to ideally be filed judiciously and to address genuine emergencies is habitually used as a litigation tool to get our clients the instant gratification that they far too often seek. Fittingly enough, these applications filed to presumably accelerate a divorce proceeding often become the ultimate double-edged sword.

Continue Reading A Day That Will Live In Exigency: The (Over) Use Of the Order to Show Cause

As many parents get ready to send their children off to college, those who are collecting child support from a non custodial parent wonder how their child support may be affected. The New Jersey Child Support Guidelines are applicable when computing child support for children who are less than 18 or more than 18 and attending high school and living at home. What, then, happens to child support when a child leaves for college? The guidelines specifically state that they should not be used to determine parental contributions for college or other post secondary education. As an exception, they may be applied when a child is living at home and commuting to college. Over the years, courts have taken an inconsistent view as to how child support should be calculated for children living away at school. In the recent, published ( precedential) case of Jacoby v. Jacoby, the NJ Appellate Division addressed this issue.

In the Jacoby case, the parties who were divorced had two children. When the oldest matriculated at college, the non-custodial father moved to reduce his child support obligation to Ms. Jacoby since the child no longer resided in his mother’s house. The trial judge granted his application, and reduced the child support by employing a formula in which the judge calculated child support for two children, and then one child. The judge then took the difference of these two sums and determined 38% of the difference and 25% of the calculated remainder   These two sums were then added and set as support.   Essentially, what the trial court did was to recognize that child support is comprised of three broad categories: fixed costs – those costs that are incurred even when child is not residing at home. An example is housing related expenses; variable costs – those costs which are incurred only when the child is with the parent ( food is an example); and controlled Costs – costs which are incurred by the primary caretaker of the child, such as clothing and entertainment. The court then presumed there was a lower amount of variable and controlled costs when the child was away at college and reduced support accordingly. 

 

When the second child matriculated, Mr. Jacoby again sought a reduction. A different judge heard the application and denied Mr. Jacoby’s request. He then appealed. 


Continue Reading A New case on Child Support for a College Student

Beware the tax calculations in the child support guidelines’ automatic calculator.  You  be getting  less support that you should be.  At a time when the NJ Child Support guidelines are notoriously low, it is important to make sure that an obligor’s  net income is appropriately calculated in order to asses whether the correct amount of

When negotiating the payment of child support, I discuss with my clients the implications of paying/receiving support through Probation.  One of the major implications of paying child support through Probation is the anticipation of a Cost of Living Adjustment, or COLA.

Any child support order paid through Probation that was issued after September 1, 1998

In determining a payor spouse’s gross income in analyzing an appropriate level of alimony or child support, one question that arises on occasion is whether to include so-called “mandatory” contributions to the total number.  For instance, if the payor spouse is required by his employer to contribute $30,000 per year towards his 401(k), should such money be included in that spouse’s income in determining support?  As to child support, the answer is a definitive “no.”

As to alimony, since such contributions are excluded from the child support equation and child support carries great weight as a matter of public policy – the New Jersey Child Support Guidelines posit that children should not be forced to live in poverty due to family disruption – it is only sensible and reasonable for such contributions to be similarly be excluded from the alimony calculation.  Simply put, since the Guidelines consider any and all sources of income to aid children, the fact that mandatory contributions are excluded demonstrates that it would be even more unfair and unreasonable to include such contributions in calculating alimony.

The Guidelines provide a definition for “gross income” and, in so doing, expressly exclude mandatory contributions.  Gross income is defined as “all earned and unearned income that is recurring or will increase the income available to the recipient over an extended period of time.  When determining whether an income source should be included in the child support guidelines calculation, the court should consider if it would have been available to pay expenses related to the child if the family would have remained intact or would have formed and how long that source would have been available to pay those expenses.”


Continue Reading TO INCLUDE OR EXCLUDE MANDATORY CONTRIBUTIONS IN DETERMINING INCOME – A BASE-LEVEL ANALYSIS

 Are your expenditures for your children “average?” Be careful to make sure that all of your children’s expenses are included in child support. Most parents going through the divorce process are aware that New Jersey has guidelines to assist courts in determining support for children. But many do not know what exactly the guidelines are supposed to cover and whether their particular situation warrants a deviation. 

 Judges are required to calculate the child support guidelines in all cases. In cases where the combined net income of both parents is $187,200 or under, the amount under the guidelines will be applied. In cases in which the combined income is in excess of $187,200 net per year, the court is to use the guideline amount and then supplement that amount, based on a variety of factors. The guideline amount is a rebuttable presumption which means that the amount that is calculated is deemed to be the appropriate amount of child support unless a party can demonstrate that the amount is not. The Guidelines specifically tell us that the awards are based on an average of the percentage of income spent on children by a large number of families in a variety of socioeconomic situations.


Continue Reading Making sure Child Support covers actual Needs