When a couple makes the difficult decision to end their marriage, there are a number of matters that must be resolved during the divorce process, including the distribution of marital property and spousal support, which provides the lower-income spouse with enough income to maintain a similar standard of living after the divorce. If the couple has children, the top priority is to reach a custody agreement that is in the best interest of the children, and to ensure that the children are supported financially for as long as they are legally entitled to those payments. If you are the spouse responsible for making child support payments, and you have questions about how long you are required to continue making those payments, you are urged to contact a skilled child custody lawyer at your earliest convenience.
How Is Child Support Determined in New Jersey?
When determining a child support order, the court’s main goal is to reach an agreement that is in the best interest of the child or children. While that is always the top priority, the courts will also consider a number of other factors when deciding on the terms of the child support order, including the following:
- Whether the child is employed and earns a steady income
- Your family’s standard of living prior to the divorce
- You and your spouse’s financial circumstances
- Your child’s specific needs
- The number of children living with you and your spouse
- You and your spouse’s age and general health
- You and your spouse’s level of education and earning capacity
- Other factors that the New Jersey courts may consider relevant to your case
What Are the Child Support Guidelines in New Jersey?
In New Jersey, the philosophy towards custody and child support is that children should be entitled to share both parents’ income, and that they should not suffer financially simply because their parents are getting divorced. To calculate child support payments, New Jersey uses the Income Shares Method, which means that the court determines the child support award based on both parents’ income. A percentage of the total combined income will determine the child support payments that each parent will be responsible for making. For example, if one parent earns $100,000 per year and the other parent earns $50,000 per year, the parent that makes $100,000 will owe two-thirds of the total child support amount, and the parent that earns $50,000 will be responsible for one third of the child support amount.
When Am I No Longer Required to Make Child Support Payments?
In many states across the country, child support payments must continue until the child is emancipated, or technically becomes an adult. Usually, this is when the child turns 18 years old. It is the general assumption that children who are 18 or older should no longer be financially dependent on their parents. As a result, this is often when child support ends, unless there are extenuating circumstances. However, in 2017, New Jersey revised its laws on when child support should be terminated. The current law states that child support payments terminate automatically on the date that the child gets married, enters the military service or dies. Child support payments must also continue until the child reaches the age of 19, unless one of the following exceptions applies:
- There is a court order that specifies another age for the termination of the obligation to pay child support. However, the age may not extend past the date when the child turns 23.
- The custodial parent provides a written request for continuing child support payments. The request must be submitted before the child turns 19. Examples of acceptable circumstances for making this request include: the child is still in high school or another secondary educational program; the child is enrolled in college or a trade school as a full-time student during some part of each of any five calendar months of the year; the child has a physical or mental disability that requires continued financial support. The disability must have existed before the child reached the age of 19.
- The child receiving financial support is in and out-of-home placement through the Division of Child Protection and Permanency in the Department of Children and Families.
If the child seeks financial support past the age of 23, a court may order it if it is warranted. However, the support would be provided as something other than child support since child support cannot continue for individuals over the age of 23.
Do Child Support Orders Include Paying for College?
If you and your ex-spouse are able to come to an agreement about who should pay for college expenses, it may not be necessary for the courts to get involved. IF this is not the case, the family court will determine whether child support should include college tuition, room and board, and other related expenses. In New Jersey, parents are encouraged to pay for college if they are financially able to do so. However, the court recognizes that not all families are in a position to be able to afford the high cost of college. A judge will consider a number of factors when making a decision about a parent’s responsibility to pay for college, including the cost of the colleges the child is applying to, how reasonable it is to expect such payments, each parent’s financial resources, the availability of financial aid, and whether the child has any financial resources.
How Are Child Support Orders Enforced in New Jersey?
Once custody and child support details have been finalized, parents have a responsibility to make the agreed-upon payments on time. If one or both parents fall behind or fail to make child support payments, the New Jersey Child Support Agency may pursue a number of steps to force compliance, including the following:
- Collecting from civil awards or settlements
- Denying a passport
- Intercepting lottery prize payments or tax refunds
- License suspension
- Notifying credit reporting companies
- Seeking enforcement through the court, which may result in an arrest warrant, or a judgment being entered against the parent who owes child support.
- Seizing assets
Can a Child Support Order Be Modified?
If you are responsible for making child support payments, it is possible to change the existing child support order if you can show that that has been a significant change in circumstances since the order was initially put into place. In addition, the change in circumstances must be permanent and unanticipated when the order was first approved. The following are examples of reasons that may justify a modification to a child support order:
- A parent has become permanently disabled.
- The child developed an unexpected, long-term illness which changes his or her financial needs.
- The supporting parent has a significant increase or decrease in income.
To change a child support order, the parent seeking the modification must file a formal written request to the court. The other parent will have the opportunity to oppose the motion if he or she does not agree to the terms of the request.
What If My Ex is Responsible for Child Support but Refuses to Pay?
When the terms of a child support order are decided on by the New Jersey court, they are binding, which means that both parents must abide by them. Unfortunately, there are situations where one spouse refuses to make child support payments. Whatever the reason behind your former spouse’s refusal to make child support payments, you have legal recourse. The first step is to contact the Office of Child Support Services (OCSS), where child support agreements are established. Even if you do not receive child support payments through this office, you may still notify them about your former spouse’s refusal to meet his or her child support obligations. If the OCSS finds that the payments are over two weeks late, they will take steps to enforce the agreement.
While going through the OCSS may ultimately result in your issue getting received, it can be a time-consuming process. However, if you are the parent who is counting on regular child support payment to provide for your child and meet his or her basic needs, you may wish to pursue a less time-consuming option. If you are running out of financial resources while you are waiting for OCSS to respond, it is in your best interest to contact a child custody lawyer who can file a motion with the court and ensure that the matter is resolved quickly and that you receive your court ordered child support payments.
Somerville Child Custody Lawyers at Lyons & Associates, P.C. Assist Clients with Child Support Issues
If you are going through a divorce, and you have questions or concerns about child support, contact our Somerville child custody lawyers at Lyons & Associates, P.C. To schedule a free, confidential consultation, call us today at 908-575-9777 or contact us online. Our offices are located in Somerville, New Jersey and Morristown, New Jersey, where we service clients throughout the state, including, but not limited to those residing in Bedminster, Parsippany, Rockaway, Short Hills, Chatham, Randolph, Madison, Morris Plains, Bridgewater, Woodbridge, Basking Ridge, Mendham, Morristown, South Plainfield, Somerset, across Somerset County, Morris County, Union County and throughout New Jersey.