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What Expenses Does New Jersey Child Support Cover?

smiling parent and child playing

New Jersey child support orders stem from the basic philosophy that every child is entitled to both financial and emotional support from both parents - even if their parents don’t live together, are divorced, or were never married. Most people understand and accept this, and payors typically have few legitimate gripes when it comes to covering the cost of basic needs like food, shelter, clothing, and medicine. Where tensions start to rise are situations where child support is mandated above and beyond that - or at least, more than what the payor feels is fair.

For instance, should the payor be required to cover the cost of a child’s sports or other extracurricular activities? To what extent? Should they have to foot the bill for entertainment like recreation center memberships or electronic devices or toys? What about private school tuition? Transportation costs? College?

As Monmouth County child support lawyers, one of the more common complaints paying parents (or obligors) have is the custodial parent using child support money on something other than the child. But convincing the Family Court in New Jersey that the custodial parent should provide a detailed accounting of their child support spending may be a long shot.

Fewer than a dozen states have rules that require custodial parents to keep track of how they spend child support. Even then, enforcement is spotty and varies between jurisdictions.

In New Jersey, the reality is that courts and judges simply don’t have the capacity to review every line item expense to ensure child support funds are spent properly in every case. That being said, if there’s evidence the custodial parent is not adequately providing for the child despite receiving child support, that’s a concern that can be raised with the court with the help of your attorney.

But as most child support lawyers will tell you, you need to come prepared. Evidence of a splurge on a pedicure here and there almost certainly won’t be enough to warrant significant action. A more successful case might involve a disparity such as the custodial parent driving a luxury car while your child goes without nutritious food or clothes that fit.

How New Jersey Child Support is Calculated

As noted by the New Jersey Child Support Institute, the Court starts with a standard formula that considers:

  • The combined weekly income of both parents.
  • The number of overnights each parent gets.
  • Health insurance premiums paid by each parent.
  • Cost of work-related child care paid by each parent.
  • Any state or federal benefits the child receives.
  • Other child support either parent may be responsible for paying.
  • Alimony paid/received.
  • Federal child care tax credits

The New Jersey Child Support Guidelines are structured to cover fixed expenses like housing, utilities, etc., transportation and food, and controlled costs for things like clothing, personal care, and entertainment.

Calculations will dictate the minimum amount for families who make $187,000 or less. Courts can compel parents to pay more than the minimum - and probably will if the paying parent can afford it.

The formula for minimum child support amounts is updated pretty much each year, to account for inflation, etc.

Courts may also compel parent obligors to pay for extraordinary expenses, which are things one parent can’t typically afford, but are necessary or highly beneficial to the child. These would be things like excess health care coverage for a child with disabilities, dental expenses for a child who just learned they need braces, or private school tuition.

Child support in New Jersey is paid at least until the child turns 19 OR graduates high school. Payments may extend beyond that if the child is in college or has certain physical/emotional challenges that require ongoing support.

The amount calculated by these guidelines creates a rebuttable presumption. Parties seeking a departure from that amount or a modification to an existing order bear the burden of proof.

If you have questions or concerns about the child support you are paying or receiving in New Jersey, we can help.

Contact our New Jersey child support attorneys by calling (732) 810-0034 or visiting us online.

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