Child Support can be calculated in one of two ways, depending upon the parents’ joint incomes.
For parents with a Combined Net Annual Income less than $187,200 per year, New Jersey, like all other states, has Guidelines which govern the amount of child support. These Guidelines take into consideration which parent is the Parent of Primary Residence (the “PPR”), the number of children, the ages of the children, the parents’ respective incomes, the number of overnights that the children stay with each parent, which parent each parent pays for work-related daycare and the cost thereof and which parent pays medical insurance premiums for the children and the cost thereof.
All of these items are inserted into a computer program and the result is the amount of child support. In most cases, the calculation is simple. In some cases it can be complicated, such as cases in which different children spend differing amounts of overnight time with each parent, cases in which there are children by a second (and/or third and/or fourth etc. etc.) later-relationship and cases in which one parent is the PPR for one or more of the children and the other parent is the PPR of the other children (called “split parenting”). Unfortunately, the Guidelines do not take into account lifestyles in which a large proportion of the total available income is channeled towards the children, leaving many parents unable to afford items they were able to afford before the break-up such as expensive clothes and hobbies, overnight camps, children’s trips to the hair salon and the like.
For parents with a Combined Net Annual Income of more than $187,200 per year there are ten statutory factors to be considered in determining child support, with the last factor (as always) being “any other factors that the court may deem relevant.” Some of the statutory child support factors include the needs of the child, the standard of living and economic circumstances of the parents, all sources of income and assets of the parents, the earning ability of the parents and other factors. Often in above-Guidelines cases, Courts are called upon to balance a measure of reasonableness against the lifestyle of the parents in order to decide the amount of child support. Thus, if one parent believes that their teenage daughter must shop at only high-end stores while the other parent believes that there is nothing wrong with buying that same daughter clothes off the clearance rack at lower-end stores, the Court may have to step in. In fact, post break-up lifestyle differences will often lead to arguments over child support between parents whether they are within Guidelines are not. One parent may be able to afford expensive extracurricular activities such as hockey and horseback riding while the other parent simply can no longer afford those items no matter how much they may wish to be able to. This often leads to post-divorce litigation.