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  • Writer's pictureLeslie A. Farber

Understanding Child Support in New Jersey

Father braiding daughter's hair

Regardless of their relationship or living situation, parents have an obligation to provide the financial, medical and emotional support their children need to thrive.  In the case of a divorce and resulting child custody agreements, the payment of child support helps ensure that parents take responsibility for the safety and well-being of their children.

Child support is the financial support paid by a parent to support a child or children of whom they do not have full residential custody.  Every child support case involves [LF1] the custodial parent, who lives with the child and is responsible for their day-to-day care; and the non-custodial parent, who does not have primary care, custody or control of the children.  The non-custodial parent often has an obligation to pay child support to help the custodial parent with the costs of raising the child.

While child support can be entered into voluntarily or by court order, the benefits extend beyond reducing financial insecurity for children and custodial parents.  It can help lower the reliance of single-parent families on welfare and positively impact family relationships, increasing the involvement of noncustodial parents in their children’s lives and fostering better relationships between children and parents post- divorce.  Studies have shown that parents who pay child support are more likely to be involved in how their children are raised.

Child support guidelines have changed dramatically over the years.  Today most states have strict guidelines, but this was not always the case.  Judges typically were given complete discretion over child support orders prior to 1984, when the passage of the federal Child Support Enforcement Amendments (CSEA) required states to strengthen their enforcement powers.  For example, the CSEA required states to:

  • Require employers to withhold child support from paychecks of delinquent parents for one month;

  • Provide for the imposition of property liens against delinquent parents;

  • Deduct unpaid support obligations from federal and state income tax refunds.

States also had to offer full child support services to all custodial parents and establish advisory guidelines for determining child support amounts. The Family Support Act of 1988 (FSA) mandated that these guidelines be presumptive, rather than just advisory, by 1994.

In New Jersey, there are several ways a parent can receive child support.  If both parents agree on the terms, they can ask a judge to approve a support order in a civil case such as a divorce or other family law proceeding.  The majority of cases start by completing an online application for child support or by submitting a completed paper form of the application to the local Child Support Agency (CSA).  The CSA can help a parent locate the noncustodial parent; establish support obligations, collection, and distribution of support; and assist in enforcement of support obligations through the state’s Probation Division.

Effective February 1, 2017, child support obligations in New Jersey last until the child is 19 years of age.  A custodial parent may request that support continue if the child is still in high school, enrolled full-time in post-secondary education or physically or mentally disabled.

In response to the FSA mandate, states devised different models for calculating child support awards.  While each case is unique, New Jersey courts calculate child support based on a complex formula that includes the following factors among others:

  • Each parent's income

  • Daycare expenses

  • Medical insurance costs

  • Applicable Social Security benefits

  • Living arrangements of the children

Parents can access New Jersey’s online support calculator to get an estimate of what their payments might be, as well as a variety of tables and worksheets to help determine their (or the other parent's) child support obligations.

Given the discretion that judges can have over child support orders and the various models that can be used, it is advisable to reach out to a qualified and experienced  attorney to discuss your specific situation.  To review the facts of your case or request legal advice, contact our office at 973-509-8500 x213 or  

The contents of this writing are intended for general information purposes only and should not be construed as legal advice or opinion in any specific facts or circumstances.

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