About New Jersey Child Support

[Please take a look at NJAPM.orgThe professional mediation organization of NJ]

New Jersey has developed guidelines for determining an amount for child support to be paid by one parent to the other parent. These are called the “NJ Child Support Guidelines Worksheets.” There are actually two sets of these worksheets. One set is for the case when the children stay overnight with the “other” parent for less than 2 nights per week (on average) – this is called the “sole parenting” worksheet. For 2 nights or more, the “shared parenting” worksheet is used. The forms are similar and derive similar amounts.

Following is a simplified overview of how the guidelines work:

(1) A committee has determined how much it costs to raise children in New Jersey. The table says, for example, that a family with two children and with combined net household income of $1680 per week spends $436 per week on the children. The table handles up to 6 children and covers net incomes from $170/wk up to $2900/wk. The amounts are based on the total cost of raising a child over the first 18 years of his or her life, in the average intact (not divorced) family in New Jersey.

You should be able to note a couple of flaws in this approach: (a) Yours is not the average family. (b) The cost of raising a child tends to increase with the age of the child, yet the tables apply a flat rate across all ages. For teenagers, the rules do allow you to increase the amount by an (arbitrary) amount.

(2) Given the gross incomes of each parent, and taking into consideration taxes, union dues, child care, health insurance, etc., the worksheet derives the expected cost of raising the children.

(3) Adjustments are made, depending on how many nights the children spend with each parent.

(4) The total cost is divided between the parents in ratio to their net incomes.

(5) Other miscellaneous adjustments are made, and the amount of child support paid by one parent to the other is determined.

Note that these are called “guidelines.” A couple can agree to payments of any reasonable amount. “Reasonable” is defined to be “at least as much as the guidelines propose.” (My experience is that the guidelines number is low.) If the parents agree on a smaller amount, an explanation must be provided and the amount must be approved by the court. But, if the parents cannot agree on a number, the court will use the guidelines calculation.

Because the calculations are quite complex and involve a lot of “exceptions,” they are virtually impossible to do without the use of a computer program, such as DivorcewareNJ.

If you are more interested: The guidelines base the costs of raising a child in 3 parts:

Fixed Costs are those incurred even when the child is not residing with the parent. Housing-related expenses (e.g., dwelling, utilities, household furnishings, and household care items) are considered fixed costs. Variable Costs are incurred only when the child is with the parent (i.e., they follow the child). This category includes transportation and food. Controlled Costs include clothing, personal care, entertainment, and miscellaneous expenses.

The responsibility for Fixed Costs and Variable Costs is divided between the parents by how much time the children spend with each of them. The guidelines assume that the primary caretaker of the child has direct control over Controlled Costs. So, even if the two parents have equal incomes and equal overnights, the PPR will receive support from the other parent – according to the guidelines.