A previous post from August 22, 2010 defined “shared parenting” by New Jersey standards, specifically: anything between 28% (104 overnights) and 50% of the overnights with the children. This comes
I suspect that anyone that read my last blog might think that I am against shared custody or that I believe it to be impossible. That is not the case. Rather, my point in that post was to address possibly bad faith requests for joint custody by those people who have historically neither spent a lot of time with the children nor did much of the actual parenting.
But shared parenting time is not an impossibility. Supposedly, it requires parents who have the ability to communicate and cooperate. That said, I have seen parents who cannot have a civil word with each other effectively co-parent.
Shared parenting, by New Jersey standards, is anything between 28% (104 overnights) and 50% of the overnights with the children. Curiously, these definitions actually stem from the child support guidelines. When the newest iteration of the Guidelines came into being in 1997 or 1998, they had two different worksheets – a sole parenting worksheet and a shared parenting worksheet (104 overnights and over). While non-custodial parents now got child support reductions with each overnight, the credit was greater using a shared parenting worksheet. As a result of the new guidelines, negotiations over additional overnights began, in many cases for obvious reasons.
One of the most common questions people ask when settling their divorce matter is, how do we figure out what the child support payment is going to be? Well, as set forth in one of our recent blog posts found here, Child Support Guidelines in New Jersey control where parties combined net after tax income is less than approximately $185,000. As also set forth in that prior entry, while a custodial parent cannot bargain away their right to child support and there generally cannot be an agreement to pay less than that set forth in the Guidelines, there may be an enforceable agreement to pay more. Apparently, an agreement to pay more may hold true even where the number agreed upon was inadvertently higher than required.
In resolving child support, it is critical for the settling parties to set forth in the Marital Settlement Agreement the basis for how child support was reached – such as whether support was calculated pursuant to the Guidelines, as well as attach to the Agreement the Child Support Guidelines worksheet itself. This will clarify whether the child support number set forth in the Agreement was part of an overall settlement of the parties’ parenting and financial issues or, by contrast, a unilateral or mutual mistake of the parties.
The perils of not following these basic steps can be costly, as recently addressed by the Appellate Division in Haskoor v. Haskoor. There, the parties entered into a Marital Settlement Agreement resolving their custody and financial issues. A weekly child support amount was included, as well as terms addressing the husband’s parenting time. Less than 2 years after following the divorce, the wife sought to reduce the husband’s parenting time while increasing his child support obligation. In responding, the husband indicated that it was at that time that he first realized that the "sole parenting worksheet" rather than the "shared parenting worksheet" had been used to calculate child support in the settlement agreement, thereby obligating him to pay a higher level of child support. The husband also argued that the sole parenting worksheet applied used the wrong amount of alimony.