Everything you need to know about New Jersey child support laws, updated for 2020.
New Jersey child support laws place the responsibility of providing food, clothes, and a safe place to live to a child on the parents.
These laws, according to the New Jersey Department of Human Services (DHS), apply to parents whether married on unmarried. On the surface, these guidelines are well-intentioned. However, we must ask how fair is the system? What can you do if the system is unfair to you, given your current financial situation? And what rights are children in the state entitled to?
We explore all these questions, plus all the vital bits parents or soon to be parents must know about child support in the garden state.
How to apply for child support in New Jersey
To apply for child support in new jersey, parents must first complete and sign the State Child Support Services Application. You can do that online via the linked state website, at your county social services or welfare office, the probation office, or family court, or call 1-877-NJKIDS1.
What to remember;
- There is a $6 application fee.
- The New Jersey Department of Human Services (DHS) offers services including; parent location, paternity establishment, and monitoring.
- Monitoring will cost you $25 per year (keep reading).
- It usually takes a maximum of 90 days to establish child support orders if all factors remain constant.
How is paternity established in new jersey?
State law recognizes three ways to establish paternity in New Jersey. One, if a child is born during a marriage, then the husband is the father. Two, through the signing of a certificate of parentage. Three, via court order or a complaint filed with the DHS.
What is vital to remember is that as a parent, you have:
One, the right to be treated professionally with respect. Two, the right to pay or receive timely payments. Three, the right to appeal to a decision or request an order review. Four, the right to be notified when any action impacts your case. And five, the right to request a child support order review every three years.
On the other hand, according to state law. Your responsibilities towards your child include;
Attend court-scheduled appearances, fulfill your child support financial obligation, and provide health cover, access genetic testing services, and to notify the child support program when you change your address or employer.
Overall, if you need paternity information, your payment history, court date, or any related query, call 1-877-NJKIDS1.
How is child support calculated in New Jersey?
New Jersey courts and enforcement bodies employ a standard guideline that considers the income(s) of both parents. What that means is, the judge uses the linked worksheets below in awarding child support.
To espouse, in the state, there are three worksheets to complete, that is court rule appendix IX-C, Court rule appendix IX-D, and Court Rules Appendix IX-E. Therefore, to estimate your obligation, download and complete the forms below:
- Sole parenting worksheet (court rule appendix IX-C)
- Shared parenting worksheet (Court rule appendix IX-D)
- Child Support Net Child Care Cost Form (Court rules Appendix IX-E).
Court rules appendix IX-F Is new Jersey’s Schedule of child support awards.
Putting it all together
Note that the linked worksheets are for use in estimating weekly parental obligation.
The general idea is to use a worksheet that fits your parental situation, then compare the amount to appendix IX-F. Are the estimates always accurate?
No, but what you get can paint a somewhat clear picture of what your support order might look like. Alternatively, or to lessen your work, use the court provided calculator here.
Also, we encourage you to consult or work closely with a family court attorney in your area.
Remember, the final amount must be in the best interest of the child, meaning, if the court finds that the awarded amount is unfair, judgment will deviate from new jersey child support guidelines.
New Jersey child support laws grounds for deviation
- Unreimbursed dental or medical expenses for either parent.
- Special needs of disabled children.
- Prior support orders.
- The children’s ages.
- Private or parochial school expenses.
How to modify child support in New Jersey
To modify child support in new jersey, parents must file a written request (motion) asking the court to change a standing order. However, the court will only allow support order modifications if the petitioning parent can show “important facts or circumstances have changed from the time a support order was issued.” What does this mean?
Court rule 5:5-4 lists motion types including, a motion to terminate or continue child support, increase/decrease support payments, and so on.
What is important to realize is that these motions tell the court and your partner your intentions. For example, a motion to increase child support tells the court that you need more or your situation has changed.
Therefore, carefully choose your motion and if you decide to represent yourself. Familiarize yourself with the Rules of the Court because the judge or court will not offer special treatment such as telling you court requirements, give legal advice, and so on.
That is why it is vital to work with or consult with a family court attorney.
Remember that the judge’s priority is the best interests of a child (ren). Thus, the factors that will determine award or dismissal are:
- Medical, educational, and financial needs of the child.
- Parental income (s) from all sources.
- The child’s need for higher education.
- The parent’s earning capability.
- Any factor the court deems relevant as per new jersey child support guidelines.
It is worth mentioning that the Father Center of New Jersey offers programs to help fathers build skills that can help them secure employment or income.
Download New Jersey child support modification kits below:
What happens if you do not pay child support in New Jersey?
Before the DHS takes any enforcement action, a child support order must exist. That is because new jersey uses a computerized system to record and monitor upkeep payments. Thus, the $25 annual monitoring fee listed above.
If a parent in new jersey fails to honor his/her obligation, the DHS can employ the following collection tools:
- Income withholding.
- Suspension of recreational, professional, or the delinquent parent’s salary, wages, and income(s)
- Issuance of a bench warrant.
- The interception of state, local, and or federal tax returns.
- Suspension, denial, or revocation of the payor’s passport.
- Credit bureau reporting.
- If the amount of back support owed is more than $2500, the state department suspends or denies the paying parent’s passport.
New Jersey child support guidelines and contempt of court charges
To kick off contempt charges for failure to pay child support, the receiving parent petitions the court to hold the payer in contempt. If the motion is successful, your ex will appear in court to explain his/her failure.
In your request to the court, you must include all the actions your ex is refusing to honor.
What to remember:
- The court can order the accused to pay the accuser’s attorney fees.
- If the payee denies the payor parenting time, contempt orders can help solve the situation.
- The penalties for contempt charges start from a minimum of $50 to jail time.
- In new jersey, the law considers you guilty until proven innocent of contempt charges.
- Failure to provide parenting is a defense in contempt of court cases.
- You can use errors in a child support order as a defense against contempt charges.
Overall, what is important to remember is that child support enforcement actions are preventable via honoring your obligation. But, if you are unable to pay, an agreement between you and your partner or a petition for modification can keep you out of jail or community service.
At what age do you stop paying child support in new jersey?
As of February 1st, 2017, ‘the age of majority’ in new jersey is 19. That means if your child is 18+, financially independent, and your support order does not require you to pay for college or continue support. You can request the DHS or court to stop payments on the child’s 19th birthday.
For custodial parents, if the child is mentally or physically disabled, or is still in high school, you can request a continuation of support.
How to end child support early in new jersey
In new jersey, kids from troubled families have the option of emancipation. To qualify, the child must be at least 16 years old, financially independent, and capable of handling his/her affairs including housing.
Emancipation frees the child to obtain employment, move out without parental consent, and grants them the right to sign a lease. But emancipation does not neutralize other restrictive laws such as the age of drinking or tobacco use.
Joining the US military is another option for kids seeking emancipation.
Voluntary termination of parental rights
Voluntarily giving up parental responsibility is an option for parents putting up their child for adoption. This action will free the parent from any financial responsibility towards the child.
But you must settle child support arrears in full or as per your child support order.
Overall, New Jersey child support laws are not as straightforward as they appear, there are court rules to consider, legal procedures, and multi-step processes that will have you tearing out your hair. So, we encourage you to consult with a family court attorney in your area today!
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