Every child is entitled to support from his or her parents. New Jersey regularly amends its Child Support Guidelines and Appendices to provide fair and adequate child support awards. Child Support Guidelines are based on the idea that child support should reflect the income and assets of the parent and the needs of the child. In many instances, the parents and the courts work together smoothly to ensure children receive adequate support.
Parents, be they natural or adoptive, are obliged to provide financial support to their child. That obligation continues and grows with the child and does not end when the parties have divorced. Normally, as a child grows older, his or her expenses increase as well. A support award can be upwardly or downwardly modified if circumstances require.
When the parents of a child have never been married, a support application is known as a non-dissolution case. This means that there is no marriage to dissolve. These cases also include applications from parties who were divorced in another state but have since moved to New Jersey.
Criteria Considered by the Courts
When making a child support award pursuant to a divorce or in a non-dissolution case, the court will consider the following factors:
- the needs and age of the child;
- the standard of living, sources of income, and assets of each parent;
- each parent’s earning ability (level of education, work experience, skills or training, responsibility (custody) for children (including child care and time and money for additional education, training, and experience);
- child’s educational needs (including college or other higher education);
- the age and health of the child and parents;
- the income and earning capacity of the child;
- prior support orders for other children;
- the reasonable debts and liabilities of each parent and child; and
- any other relevant facts.
In order to assure that the courts do not differ wildly in their determinations of support, the State has enacted what are known as the Child Support Guidelines (Guidelines). These Guidelines are exactly what the name implies: a formula that guides the court considering the case through the factors that are included in the support decisions.