New Jersey Child Support Overview

Child support is designed to ensure that both parents contribute financially to their child's necessities (such as food, clothing and shelter) after they separate.

Like all U.S. states, New Jersey uses a formula to determine how much each parent should contribute, and the judge uses the result as a guideline when issuing a child support order.

However, New Jersey's formula tends to produce lower-than-standard results; for a typical family, it produces the fourth-lowest payment in the country, according to a 2019 study by Custody X Change.

Parents can agree to a different child support amount and include it in their parenting plan when they settle a case. The judge decides whether to approve the amount.

Generally, the parent who spends less time with the child pays support. If parents share custody 50/50, the higher-earning parent pays. The parent who pays is called the obligor, and the parent who receives payment on the child's behalf is the obligee.

Estimating parenting time could cost you thousands a year in child support. Let Custody X Change calculate your time.

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Factors in the guideline child support formula

The court considers four main factors when deciding child support. You can enter this information into New Jersey's child support calculator to estimate your payment.

Number of eligible children

A child support payment increases with each eligible child the parents have together.

Support orders generally end once a child turns 18 but may extend to 23 by order of the court or agreement between parents, only if the child stays enrolled in secondary school full time. The court considers stepchildren eligible if it finds that the stepparent is responsible for them.

Parenting time

The more overnight visits the obligor has with the child in a year, the less they pay in support. The number of overnights is expressed as a percent of the 365 days in a year.

You can calculate overnights with the Custody X Change app or count manually.

For sole physical custody, visits not in the regular parenting time schedule that go longer than five nights (such as vacations or summer break visits) typically don't count toward the overnight total. (Custody X Change users: Temporarily delete these visits from your calendar to get an accurate overnight percentage.)

However, the parent can request a brief child support reduction if they pay the child's food or transportation costs during such a visit. If the court chooses to count the visit toward your overnight total, you won't be eligible for a support reduction.

Any visit longer than 12 hours counts as an overnight, even if it doesn't span two days, though this is rare. (Custody X Change users: If this applies to you, temporarily extend each visit into the next day by clicking and dragging.)

In the rare case that a visit 12 hours or shorter does span two days, courts occasionally won't count it as an overnight. (Custody X Change users: If your court doesn't count these visits, temporarily delete them from your calendar to get an accurate overnight percentage.)

Income

Determining parental income allows the court to order a manageable payment.

Gross income is the amount a parent earns from wages and other sources (as listed on page 3 of Appendix IX-B) before taxes and deductions. Net income is how much they receive after taxes and deductions (as listed on page 9).

New Jersey adds together each parent's net income to determine combined net income.

The state expects each parent to contribute to their child in proportion to their share of the combined net income. For example, if each parent makes 50 percent of the combined net income, they should contribute to the child's costs equally (taking parenting time and expenses into account).

Expenses

The state assumes families spend a typical amount on their child in the following categories. (Section 8 of Appendix IX-A has details.)

  • Housing
  • Food
  • Clothing
  • Transportation
  • Uninsured health care costs up to $250 per child, per year
  • Entertainment
  • Miscellaneous

If a parent wants the court to deviate from the guideline award, they must prove that how much they spend in a category differs from the average family. (e.g., The child might not have any uninsured health costs.)

The court may choose to consider additional expenses, such as:

  • Child-care expenses
  • Health insurance payments
  • Recurring uninsured health care expenses over $250 per child, per year
  • Supplemental expenses (e.g., school tuition, extracurricular fees)
Deviating from the guideline formula

The court can increase or decrease the guideline support amount based on several factors, including low or high incomes and government benefits (welfare) received on the child's behalf.

If the obligor chooses to be unemployed or underemployed, support is based on their employment history, education level, last paycheck or unemployment benefits.

The court adjusts the support payment if the guideline amount would leave the obligor with less than $252 in weekly income.

Applying for child support

Custody and child support are usually addressed together, since the custody order influences the support amount.

Child support is automatically part of your case when you file for divorce as the parent of a minor.

Parents in non-divorce cases must fill out a Child Support Services Application and Financial Statement for Summary Support Actions to ask for a support order. If the child doesn't have a legal father, they must first establish paternity.

Some courts require you to complete a child support worksheet, which determines your recommended payment. If you reach an agreement on child support, attach the sheet to your parenting plan. Otherwise, turn it in to the court clerk.

For sole physical custody, complete a sole parenting worksheet. Follow the instructions beginning on page 3 of Appendix IX-B.

For shared physical custody, complete a shared parenting worksheet. Follow the instructions beginning on page 23 of Appendix IX-B (linked above).

If the amount you've agreed to differs from the guideline amount, explain why on the worksheet.

Early Settlement Panel and economic mediation (divorce cases only)

Unless divorcing parents have agreed on all financial issues, including child support, they attend an Early Settlement Panel a few weeks after discovery ends. This means they appear at the courthouse together to get settlement advice from two or three divorce attorneys who have had no involvement in the case.

The attorneys review the settlement proposal and case information statement each parent turns in prior. Then, each party presents their case.

The attorneys deliberate in private before providing a recommendation for how to handle child support, alimony, property and other finances in a settlement.

If parents don't settle at this point, they go to economic mediation for another chance to agree on issues like child support.

Modifying child support

You can ask the court for a support modification whenever certain circumstances arise. These may include changes in the parenting time schedule and loss of employment.

If you got your support order in a divorce, fill out a motion to change the order. Otherwise, apply to modify the order.

Enforcing a child support order

You must pay support on time to avoid sanctions from the court, including the seizure of funds from your bank account, adverse reports to credit bureaus and suspension of your licenses (e.g., drivers, professional). Egregious offenses could result in the judge issuing a warrant for your arrest.

A parent cannot stop paying child support because the other parent is withholding visitation, and a parent cannot withhold visitation because the other parent is not paying child support.

The Child Support Agency's website has more information about order enforcement.

Keeping track of payments and expenses

Remember that a child support order is legally binding and must be taken seriously.

Whether you're paying or receiving support, the Custody X Change app can help you keep track of payments. Log details of every one into your expense tracker to ensure you're sticking to the court order.

You can also track other child-related expenses and print an invoice if the other parent needs to reimburse you.

Custody X Change keeps you on top of all aspects of child custody, including payments and expenses.

Estimating parenting time could cost you thousands a year in child support. Let Custody X Change calculate your time.

Calculate My Overnights Percentage Now

Estimating parenting time could cost you thousands a year in child support. Let Custody X Change calculate your time.

Calculate My Time
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Estimating parenting time could cost you thousands a year in child support. Let Custody X Change calculate your time.

Calculate My Overnights Percentage Now

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