Articles Posted in Child Support

There is no question that parents owe their children a duty of support. The struggle between courts and parents alike is how long that duty needs to last. Most states agree that 19 years of age is the latest a parent is required to support the child, including New Jersey. However, in New Jersey, emancipation can occur once the child turns 18 or becomes financially independent, in which case the parents would file papers requesting the child be emancipated. But what about when the child decides to seek higher education – should the parents be prepared to pay for this? Is there a right for a child to be educated? One recent case, entitled Ricci v. Ricci, explores this issue in greater detail, and in more interesting circumstances.

In this case, parents of the child, Caitlyn, agreed to emancipate her when she left her mother’s home to live with her grandparents at 19. Having been divorced since Caitlyn was 4, both parties filed a consent order terminating child support. Caitlyn intervened, asking to vacate the emancipation order and also requesting an order for her parents to provide funds so she could attend college. The appellate court goes over the record at length, with both intervenor and the other parties disagreeing as to the family dynamics which led Caitlyn to live with her grandparents.

The mother alleged that Caitlyn smoked marijuana, had trouble with alcohol, was sexually promiscuous and essentially failed to follow the rules imposed on her in her mother’s home. Caitlyn stated she simply did not fit in with either her mother or father’s new family, and to ease tensions, decided to live with her grandparents. Caitlyn’s father corroborated this view, stating Caitlyn had not spoken to either parent for over six months, missed family birthdays, and asserted that he opposed her moving in with his parents, as he himself was estranged from them and felt they were a root cause for Caitlyn’s rebellion. Continue reading

When a judge calculates the amount of child support that a parent must pay for a child, many different expenses are factored into that calculation. Certainly things like food, clothing and shelter are included, but additional items such as transportation and entertainment area also considered. Sometimes there are additional expenses that a child can incur that are not necessarily contemplated when base child support payments are calculated. The Guidelines are written in such a way that judges are allowed the discretion to make adjustments to the level of support if necessary on a case-by-case basis, and a judge did so in a recent child support case holding that a parent may need to pay additional child support in NJ if the supported child is especially gifted or talented in the field of the arts.

P.S. v. J.S.

In the November 2016 case of P.S. v. J.S., the judge dealt with the question of whether the child in question should be considered “gifted” and thus have the child support her parent pays increased to provide additional money in order to pay for the expenses required to pursue her talent.

The parents in that case were in a dispute about the payment of expenses related to her acting activities. The Plaintiff currently pays the Defendant $113 per week in child support. The dispute here is that the Defendant wants the Plaintiff to pay additional funds as child support to help cover the cost of all extracurricular activities, “including but not limited to theater-related costs.” The Plaintiff objects to paying the additional support, arguing that those costs are already included in the child support that he pays. Continue reading

Mothers and fathers are responsible for ensuring that their children are provided with food, clothing and shelter, regardless of the relationship of the parents. For this reason, the State of New Jersey takes the payment of child support very seriously and provides services and NJ child support case information to ensure that child support orders are paid.

In New Jersey, child support payments may be handled either by the probation department or may be paid directly to the other parent. Handling child support payments through the probation department using the NJKiDS system provided by the state is often a good idea for both parents. The parent paying support benefits because a record of payments is automatically generated, providing proof of your payment. Paying the other parent directly creates a potential risk of not getting credit for payments made. For the parent receiving support, the record of payments made is also beneficial because missed payments will be clearly shown, and the probation department will automatically be notified to begin enforcement of the child support order.

New Jersey Kids Deserve Support (NJKiDS)

The New Jersey Kids Deserve Support (NJKiDS) is a state-run computer system that contains NJ child support case information that parents can access by phone or online. It contains a record of the information about your child support case, including a record of past 13 months of child support payments and any major case events that have taken place. Using this system is beneficial to the parent receiving child support payments because if a payment is missed, it will automatically take action to enforce your child support order. Continue reading

The New Jersey Child Support Guidelines allow the courts to determine the level of financial support that a child with divorced parents is entitled to. The concept of child support exists because it is the philosophy of the state that a child should still benefit from constant financial support of both parents even if the child’s parents are not together. The guidelines attempt to ensure that a child with divorced parents is entitled to the same financial opportunities as a child of an intact family.

The guidelines are used by the courts to both create the initial child support order and modify orders if necessary. The court will apply the guidelines to each family situation and will presume that it is a proper arrangement unless one of the parents proves otherwise.

What Expenses Are Covered By Child Support?

It comes as no surprise to parents that children can cost a lot of money, but the question for the courts is how do we determine the actual amount? The following categories represent the things that a parent who receives child support will use that money to pay for. Continue reading

In March of 2016 the New Jersey case of Harrington v. Harrington was decided. The case deals with the retroactive modification of child support when a child is emancipated. In Harrington, the plaintiff and defendant had three unemancipated daughters, a twenty-year-old college student, a seventeen-year-old high school student planning to attend college, and a fifteen-year-old high school student, when they divorced in 2012.

The plaintiff agreed to pay $240 per week in unallocated child support. Unallocated child support is support that is not allocated as specific amounts of money per child, but rather one amount for all the children. In this case, that means that the $240 per week payment is not divided into ⅓ (or $80) per child.

In September 2014 the parties mutually agreed to emancipate the two eldest daughters, which typically means that the payment of child support would be recalculated. However, neither party sought to change the child support order, and the plaintiff continued to pay $240 per week in child support. Continue reading

The Child Support Guidelines apply to support for all children whose parents combined net income is between $8,840.00 annually ($170.00/week) and $187,200.00 annually ($3,600.00/week). The guidelines amount, within this span of income, is presumed to be the correct amount of child support, though there are reasons to deviate from guidelines, including but not limited to:

  • Educational expenses of the children
  • Unreimbursed medical expenses of either parent
  • One parent’s household having more than six children
  • Special needs of the child or children
  • Specific Shared Parenting arrangements that have a different set of Guidelines

Goals and Inclusions in Child Support Calculations

Child support is intended to cover certain expenses of the child, and is an obligation of both of the parents. The goal is supposed to be to afford the child the same opportunities that would have existed if the family remained together. The expenses to be covered by basic child support are:

  • Food, housing, clothing and transportation
  • Up to $250 of unreimbursed health care each year, per child
  • Entertainment
  • Various miscellaneous expenses

An interesting thing about child support is that there is a presumption that an increase in income of the payor results in an equal and simultaneous increase in the child or children’s needs. Continue reading

Whether you divorce by settlement agreement or a judge orders divorce terms after a trial, the resulting judgment is a legally binding court order. Your settlement agreement is incorporated into your judgment. If your ex doesn’t abide by its terms, either for custody or child support, you have a few options.

Problems With Child Support

If your ex isn’t paying child support, your easiest remedy is to sign up for your state’s child support services. State services collect from your ex, often through an income withholding order, so it’s more difficult for to fall behind with his payments in the first place. His employer must deduct his support from each of his paychecks and forward it to the state. The state then transmits the payments to you and keeps track. If your ex falls behind for such reasons as being out of work, the state may intercept his tax refund, report to the credit bureaus, or place liens against his property.

But state services can be slow because they often labor under a huge caseload. If you want your money sooner rather than later, you can take your ex back to court yourself. Your ex will have to appear before a judge and explain why he hasn’t paid. The judge may work with him if he’s suffered some financial hardship that genuinely prevents him from paying child support. This doesn’t mean the judge will vacate or erase the support terms of your divorce judgment so you won’t get paid. It means he’ll put a plan in place by which your ex can eventually catch up with his arrears (the unpaid balance he owes you) and get back on track. Continue reading

Under New Jersey law, emancipation of a child occurs when the dependent relationship between the parent and the child ends. The term emancipation is used largely in the context of child support, as the emancipation of a child signals the end of the requirement of a parent to pay child support. In the 2015 case of Llewelyn v. Shewchuk, the court answered the question of whether a child is emancipated when she chooses to live independently from either legal parent.

The facts of the Llewelyn case are interesting, as we typically see the parents as the parties bringing this type of litigation, but here we have the child as the “appellant” in this particular case and the child’s father as the defendant. In 1994 James Shewchuk (the defendant) adopted two-year-old Adrianna (the appellant) when he married her mother (who is the plaintiff in this case). Continue reading

A major consideration in determinations of child support obligations is the time with each parent in a true joint custody arrangement. When one considers this situation, there are obligations to both parents for the children that would not be shared expenses but for the equal time arrangement, so the court makes an effort to compensate for those expenses by varying from the standard child support guidelines.

New Jersey child support includes various types of expenses for the child, including fixed expenses such as housing, utilities and other expenses incurred whether or not the children is present; variable expenses such as the costs while the child is each parents’ care such as food and transportation; and controlled expenses such as clothing, personal hygiene items, entertainment and various other expenses while the child is in a parent’s care. Controlled expenses are those that can be challenged as the expenses required in the household of each parent. If a parent is ordered to pay full guidelines child support in a situation where the child is with them fifty percent of the time, they would be paying these controlled expenses twice, once in their own home, and again when the child was with the other parent. Obviously, one parent paying for the same expenses twice is unfair and unreasonable.

The child support guidelines set controlled expenses to be 25% of the entire child support obligations. There is a case, Wunsch-Deffler v. Deffler, that found, in a 50/50 sharing of the parents’ time with the child or children, this 25% controlled expense amount should not be included in the payor’s child support obligation. Wunsch-Deffler v. Deffler, 406 N.J. Super. 505 (Ch.Div. 2009). Therefore, pursuant to this court, the guidelines child support amount for the payor should be reduced by 25%. Continue reading

What Government Agency enforces a NJ child support order?

The New Jersey Probation Division is tasked with enforcing New Jersey child support orders.

What happens if NJ child support is paid through the New Jersey Probation Department and the obligor fails to pay?

If the obligor fails to make scheduled child support payments, an enforcement hearing may be scheduled to deal with the issue. At the hearing the parents will typically present evidence of their financial situation. The obligor is required to attend the hearing, and if he or she fails to do so, a bench warrant may be issues for his or her arrest. If an arrest warrant is issued, the obligor’s driver’s license may be suspended as well.

Who conducts an enforcement hearing and what is the process?

At the hearing the case will be heard either by a Hearing Officer or a judge. Hearing Officers can make recommendations, but if either party objects to the recommendation a judge will hear the case instead. If neither party objects to the Hearing Officer’s recommendation, a judge will simply review the recommendation and if satisfied, will sign off on it, making the recommendation an enforceable order. Continue reading

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