Child support is a court-ordered measure to ensure both parents continue to financially support their children after divorce. The right to child support belongs to the child, not to the parent.
Child support payments can be used to fund the child’s food, shelter, clothing, transportation, education, medical costs, and some extracurricular activities. It can also be used to fund other expenses associated with these categories. (For example: Shelter doesn’t just include rent, it can also include utilities and telephone bills.)
Child support does not include college tuition unless negotiated separately in the divorce settlement agreement.
The amount of child support owed is usually determined by the New Jersey Child Support Guidelines unless your income falls outside of the guideline range or an alternative agreement has been negotiated that better meets the needs of the child.
How is Child Support Determined?
There are many factors that dictate the structure of a child support obligation:
- The net income of both parents
- Age of the children
- Number of children
- Distribution of overnight parenting time
- Alimony and child support payments from prior marriages
- Earning potential of both parents
- The child’s special needs or uninsured medical requirements, if applicable
What is absent from this list? The remarriage of one or both parents.
Child Support is Different from Alimony
Alimony payments can be terminated when the recipient decides to remarry or cohabitate with someone else. Child support works differently.
Children from the first marriage are entitled to continue the same financial lifestyle they experienced when the marriage was intact. They have a right to the economic support of both parents regardless of the marital status of both parents.
For this reason, a parent’s decision to remarry–on its own–will have no effect on the child support arrangement. However, a modification of child support payments could be requested on the basis of a significant change in the financial circumstances and/or earning capacity of the noncustodial parent.
Another potential change in economic circumstances is the birth of another child.
The “Other Dependent Deduction”
If a noncustodial parent decides to have more children in a second marriage, it could impact the child support arrangement from the first marriage. According to the New Jersey Child Support Guidelines, a child support order can be adjusted based on the arrival of a new legal dependent (aka. a new child).
This would require a formal application to the Court to revise child support based on a change of circumstances—a new child. You and your new spouse would be required to produce your income and financial records in order to determine what sum should be credited for support of the new child and deducted from the calculation for the support of the children from the prior marriage. That sum is called the “Other Dependent Deduction.”
The “Other Dependent Deduction” embodies the concept that each adopted or biological child of a parent is entitled to a portion of that parent’s income. According to the New Jersey Rules of Court Appendix 10-A, the following principles apply when considering a child support adjustment based on this factor:
- Where there is not an order requiring either parent to pay support for the other dependent this adjustment shall be used only if the income, if any, of the other parent of the secondary family is provided to or ascertainable by the court;
- Where there is not an order requiring either parent to pay support for the other dependent, if the other parent in the secondary family is voluntarily unemployed or underemployed, the court shall impute income to that person to determine the serial family parent’s obligation to the children in the secondary family;
- This adjustment may be applied to other dependents born before or after the child for whom support is being determined;
- This adjustment may be requested by either or both parents (custodial and/or non-custodial); and
- The adjustment may be applied when the initial award is entered or during subsequent modifications of the support order.
Hire a New Jersey Family Lawyer
Many factors determine the amount and duration of child support payments. The court’s decision to modify an existing arrangement can vary widely on a case-by-case basis.
If you are divorced and considering a major life change–such as moving in with someone or getting remarried–you should seek the advice of a family lawyer before acting.
The decisions you make can impact your divorce settlement or custody arrangement whether you are aware of them or not. Play it safe and consult with one of the family law attorneys at Arons & Solomon, P.A.