For many parents, determining appropriate levels of child support is one of the most important issues to resolve during a divorce. After all, child support payments can have a significant impact on the well-being of the whole family.
As family law attorneys, we regularly help our clients with child support questions—including how to file for support, how to get temporary support during a divorce, and other considerations parents should know about.
Who can file for child support services?
If you’re divorced or separated from the biological parent of your child, you may be eligible for child support. This is particularly true if you’re the custodial parent and/or you don’t have as high a level of income or financial resources as your co-parent.
However, child support isn’t determined simply according to who is the custodial parent. Even if the co-parents are spending similar amounts of time with their child, one parent may still need to pay child support if the parents’ financial circumstances differ. Likewise, a biological parent can be required to pay child support even if the parents weren’t married.
Child support is also sometimes required from individuals who aren’t biological parents. In a divorce, if one parent isn’t the biological parent of the child, they may not be required to pay child support if they haven’t legally adopted the child. That said, exceptions exist. In certain cases, an argument can be made that a non-biological parent is a “psychological parent.”
Ultimately, any parent or custodian of a child who thinks they may be eligible for child support can file, either with the help of their family law attorney or through the Department of Human Services.
How to apply for child support
For New Jersey parents, there are two avenues for applying for child support.
You can apply for child support through the Department of Human Services by filling out the required form and paying the $6 application fee, which is waived if you receive public assistance. However, the Department of Human Services is a large agency that isn’t always able to respond to cases with the individualized attention and speed parents would like. Either way, child support determinations are always determined by the Court, even when the process is initiated through the DHS.
Therefore, you can also apply for child support by working with a knowledgeable family law attorney. At Jacobs Berger, our experienced divorce attorneys understand that applying for child support is an urgent matter for many parents.
We can work with you to secure a fair child support agreement in your divorce settlement, including by addressing questions around receiving support while your child is in college and unable to work full-time.
We also work with parents to file for temporary child support so that they can receive support during the divorce process itself. After all, time doesn’t stand still, and neither do the costs of raising children.
For unmarried parents, we can also help with applying for and receiving child support outside of the divorce process, in what are known as non-dissolution (or “FD”) proceedings.
Cost of applying for child support
When you apply for child support through the Department of Human Services or through the Probation Department/Court, you’ll be charged a one-time $6 fee for your application. However, applying for child support takes time and requires gathering and organizing relevant personal and financial paperwork.
If you choose to seek child support with the assistance of a family law attorney, the costs will vary according to the complexity of your individual situation, but you’ll receive individualized and streamlined legal support and attention.
Not only is your time valuable, but for some parents, prompt action in relation to their child support request can make a significant difference in terms of their overall financial stability. Likewise, a lawyer can help you file a motion for temporary child support as you go through your divorce.
What determines who pays for child support?
The state of New Jersey considers many factors in determining who should be paying child support.
Although there are certainly many instances in which a custodial parent receives child support payments, determining who should receive child support is far more complex than noting who the custodial parent is.
New Jersey courts believe it’s in the child’s best interest to have a relationship with both parents and will therefore aim for the child having parenting time with both parties, including an even split whenever that option is reasonable and realistic. Thus, parental income and financial resources are also important factors in determining who pays for child support.
The courts will also look at the costs of raising the child, including healthcare and childcare costs in order for a parent to work, as well as other factors. If you’re divorced or divorcing, whether you pay or receive alimony is also relevant to the child support analysis.
Ultimately, a child support order is legally binding. For this reason alone, many parents choose to work with an attorney in seeking child support. Once the support has been court-ordered, the supporting parent must make the payments, and the supported parent has a number of ways to seek enforcement of those obligations. Support for a child can be multifaceted, however, and may be expanded beyond the guidelines when the circumstances warrant it, so consulting with an experienced child support attorney is advisable.
If life circumstances change significantly for either party or their child, then either parent may seek a modification to the child support order by filing a motion with the assistance of their attorney.
How is child support calculated in New Jersey?
The state of New Jersey has a fairly set formula for determining child support. It looks at a number of factors, including:
- Each parent’s financial circumstances, including income, commissions, assets, bonuses, overtime, and tax status
- The amount of time children will spend with each parent, as determined by the Child Custody and Parenting Time Agreement
- Childcare costs for parents to work
- Age and number of children
- The children’s healthcare costs
- Any additional obligations for child support from pre-existing relationships
While the state does make adjustments for certain circumstances, such as higher-income families, the amount of “base” support that the New Jersey child support guidelines provide tends to be less flexible once the relevant information has been gathered.
That said, parents may decide how child support payments will be made and received, as well as how long they’ll last. In certain cases, child support payments may continue through college.
Child support may end when the child turns nineteen if the parents have agreed to terminating payments at that time or if they haven’t provided otherwise in their Agreement. However, if the child is pursuing a college degree, the supported parent may seek the extension of child support payments until the child turns 23.
Speak with our experienced child support attorneys
At Jacobs Berger, our knowledgeable family law attorneys understand the importance of child support in preserving your and your child’s financial stability.
We have extensive experience in working with parents to file for and pursue fair child support payments. In fact, child support is an issue of primary focus in many divorces because of how drastically it can impact a family’s well-being.
If you want to file for child support or pursue a modification to your child support agreement, contact us today for a strategic planning session. We’ll do all we can to help you support your family.