The incomes of both parents and the number of children are components of determining child support, but not the only foundational elements in the equation. How much time a parent spends with their child directly impacts their child support obligations.
States generally use one of three guideline models to determine child custody: the income shares model, the percentage of income model, or the Melson formula. New Jersey uses the income shares model, which takes into account how much time the obligor parent (the one who pays support) spends with their child.
Child Support in Shared vs. Sole Custody
Child support is calculated differently based on whether a parent has sole or shared physical/residential custody. A parent is considered to have sole physical custody if the child spends less than 28% of their overnight time each year with the other parent. Shared custody occurs if the child spends 28% or more of their overnight time with the other parent (the equivalent of at least two overnights per week).
Because it is nearly impossible to split a child’s time exactly 50-50, the parent with the greatest share of time is the parent of primary residence (PPR), or custodial parent. The noncustodial parent (NCP) is the parent of alternate residence (PAR).
In New Jersey, the noncustodial parent typically pays child support to the custodial parent (exceptions include if the custodial parent makes significantly more than the NCP). The amount owed can be reduced based on how much time the child spends with the NCP. That parent will get credit toward the additional costs they encumber from the increased visitation time. With all else being equal, a PAR time of 30% will pay more in child support to the custodial parent than a PAR time of 45%.
Income Shares Model of Child Support
Each parent’s income is calculated and combined to reflect what would be available to their children if the household was intact.
Income sources include the following:
- Imputed income
- Retirement plan distributions
- Disability payments
- Workers’ compensation
- Unemployment compensation benefits
- Earnings from investments
Certain expenses are deducted from the income:
- Mandatory union dues
- Mandatory retirement contributions
- Federal, state, and local income tax withholding
- Child care
- Child health care
- Child support from past relationships
- Alimony to current and/or past relationships
The total basic child support obligation is a combination of the net combined monthly incomes and the number of children involved in the case.
According to the income shares model, each parent is responsible for a percentage of the child support total. If the net combined monthly income is $6,000, a parent who makes $4,000 is assigned 67%. The other parent is assigned 33%. One parent is responsible for 67% of the total child support obligation. The other parent is responsible for the remaining 33%.
The court has the authority to add additional expenses, which are split between the parents according to the same percentage used in dividing the basic support.
The noncustodial parent’s obligation is then potentially reduced according to the PAR time. Child support payments are withheld from the obligor parent’s income unless the court finds another arrangement is appropriate.
Ensure You Receive or Pay Fair Child Support
The philosophies behind New Jersey’s child support guidelines are three-fold:
- Child support is a continuous duty of both parents
- Children are entitled to share in the current income of both parents
- Children should not be the economic victims of divorce or unmarried parents
At Lane & Lane, LLC, we believe in standing up for parents and their children. Without experienced legal counsel, a parent may overpay child support or receive less than they deserve to adequately care for the child.
Learn more about your child support rights by scheduling a consultation with our accomplished team. Contact us online or call (908) 259-6673.