The accurate determination of child support awards and obligations is important for the well-being of your family. Attorneys and judges often hear from litigants that the child support ordered by the Court makes little sense in the reality of their situation. The parent paying support tends to question whether the amount awarded is really needed for the child’s expenses, while the parent receiving support feels the amount awarded is not sufficient to meet the child’s needs. Why does this disparity exist, and what can you do about it?
Child support in New Jersey is calculated based upon a formula contained within child support guidelines worksheets and other considerations. Please note the end of the prior sentence: “and other considerations.” In its simplest form, and minus “other considerations,” the determination of a child support amounts are based on the average spending for an intact family with similar circumstances. In other words, to calculate child support for your family, the Court looks at tables of what a family living in one household with the same number of children as you and the same take-home pay as you typically spend on their children. The tables were created, in large part, based on the research of economists. While this approach may make the calculation of child support simple and “fair” across the board when applied to thousands of families, it is not necessarily accurate when applied to your family.
The benefits of hiring a sophisticated family law attorney to represent you in your child support matter start with the fact that the attorney will review the particular facts of your family with regard to the “other considerations” when calculating child support. A non-lawyer doesn’t realize even the complexity of the calculation of income and how getting the right child support depends on inputting the right information. Calculating child support is a skill that is developed over time by the family law attorney and the adage “practice makes perfect” definitely applies. The child support guidelines are not the final word in the calculation of child support. In fact, the law says this formula is “presumed” to calculate the correct amount of child support, but a different amount of support can be agreed upon by the parties or set by the Court if proven appropriate under the circumstances. The law even spells out several specific facts that may be a good reason to deviate from the guidelines including, for example, unique parenting schedules, private school expenses, particularly high incomes and children with disabilities or special needs.
The formula applied in the child support guidelines also allows the Court to consider facts beyond just income and number of children. Some of these facts, which are familiar to experienced family law attorneys, can be easily overlooked by parents appearing in Court on their own to have child support calculated or modified. One common mistake is failing to use the correct tax filing status and withholdings, resulting in child support obligations that are too high or too low. Litigants may also be unaware of the special treatment that can be given to disabled or low-income households, or how to address medical insurance, childcare and other expenses typically paid on behalf of children. A family law attorney’s knowledge of these and other details of child support laws can be extraordinarily helpful in achieving a child support calculation that is fair and appropriate for your individual situation.
Raising a child is both difficult and expensive. Hiring a family law attorney who exhibits a solid knowledge base of NJ child support law and its nuances is well worth it. The attorney will have the ability and take the time to analyze the law as it applies to all of the particular circumstances of your family and develop an accurate determination of your child support award or obligations.