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.…
Earlier today I posted ablog entry on the unreported Appellate Division decision in Holden v, Holden decided on October 28, 2010. In that piece, I discussed how the court based support on the father’s gross income because of his history of not paying taxes. The case was interesting for other reasons, as well.
In this case, the parties net income exceeded the maximum net incomes under the Child Support Guidelines. The trial court entered a somewhat arbitrary award with regard to past and prospective child support which did not take into account the children’s actual needs. This, in part, was brought on by the fact that the parties did not present all of the relevant information regarding the children’s needs (each had custody of one child). The father appealed on this ground.
In reversing, the Appellate Division agreed with the father, restating the law as follows:
It is undisputed that where family income exceeds the maximum amount under the guidelines, the court has discretion to calculate child support using the maximum support under the guidelines and "combin[e] that preliminary figure with a
supplemental award subject to the provisions of N.J.S.A. 2A:34-23a . . . ." Pascale v. Pascale, 140 N.J. 583, 595 (l995).
On April 13, 2009, the Appellate Division issued a decision in the case of Cadavid v. Nieto which dealt in large part with the issue of child support in high income cases. To view the full text of the case, click here.
In the Cadivad matter, the father appealed an Order requiring him to pay almost $9000 per month in child support. Both parties were immigrants from Colombia. The father is the successful founder and president of eight schools that teach English as a second language located in New Jersey, New York, Florida, and Canada. He also owns interests in several commercial properties in New Jersey and Florida as well as 4 homes. In a June 2007 loan application, the father valued his various business interests at $8 million and the fair market value of his real estate holdings at $5.2 million. The trial judge calculated the father’s annual income for purposes of child support at approximately $2 million annually.
On the other hand, the mother was a full time homemaker but had an associates degree from Bergen County Community College.
The parties had 3 children under age 10 at the time of the proceedings.…
On December 31, 2008, the Appellate Division released the opinion in the case of Cardell v. Kirby. In this case, child support over the guidelines was limited to a…
In high-income cases, determining the appropriate level of child support is a difficult – and critical task for the courts. Part science, part art, most judges rely on both detailed financial disclosures adn a qualitative assessment of what is truly in the child’s best interests. In the vast majority of low- and middle-income cases, judges follow the advice of the New Jersey Child Support Guidelines, which define child support based on the family’s net income. In 2006, the Guidelines were revised include more high-income situations. Many feel this formulaic approach was more hindrance than help because discretionary spending patterns can vary widely.
The New Jersey Supreme Court’s revised the Child Support Guidelines effective September 1, 2007 – specify only a minimum support level (with no guidance on an upper limit) for families with net incomes exceeding $187,000. Previously, the Guidelines defined both the support level for families with net incomes exceeding $229,840. When the new Guidelines are in effect, a large number of cases will no longer be subject to guidelines on the maximum level of support, which should result in awards that are more in keeping with the parties’ lifestyles.
Approximately 10 years ago, the New Jersey Child Support Guidelines were overhauled to include more families. Prior to those changes, only cases in which the combined net income (i.e., the net after-tax income of both parents) was under $52,000 per year fell within the Guidelines. The changes significantly raised the upper limit of the Guidelines to include families whose combined net income was as much as $150,800 per year ($2,900 per week). The Guidelines were not changed again until 2006, when the upper limit was raised to cover families up to $229,840 ($4,420 per week). The goal was to make the Guidelines more inclusive.
However, the changes had unintended consequences. While there were some modest increases in child support awards at lower-income levels, support actually decreased at the upper levels – which prompted an immediate outcry from the Family Law Section of the New Jersey Bar Association. Others argued that strict Guideline calculations did not make sense in higher-income situations where discretionary spending patterns would not necessarily be captured in the economic data on which the Guidelines were based.
The Supreme Court took note and accepted the recommendation of its Family Practice Committee to set the top of the guidelines at $187,000 per year ($3,600 per week) in combined net income. The Court expects that the new limits will cover 90 percent of the state’s child-support cases.