How to Know if Child Support Is Fair
If you share children with another person from whom you are getting divorced, are already divorced from, or were never married to and are living apart, making sure the children you share together are adequately supported is an apprehension that probably tops your list of concerns surrounding the divorce or breakup. This is true whether you are the custodial parent who will be receiving support on behalf of your child or the parent who will be ordered to pay support. In either case, you want to know that the amount ordered by the court is adequate and fair.
Below we explore some aspects of child support law and how to know that you and your children are being treated fairly when it comes to child support. For help with child support, child custody, divorce or other family law matters in New Jersey, call the Union Law Offices of John B. D’Alessandro to discuss your needs with an experienced and dedicated New Jersey family law attorney.
The Guidelines Are Presumed to Be Fair
The first place to turn to when calculating child support is the New Jersey Child Support Guidelines. These guidelines explain what is included in the calculation of child support and provide a statutory formula based on the combined income of both spouses, each spouse’s contribution to that income, the number of children to be supported, and costs associated with raising the kids, including any special needs the children may have.
The amount arrived at using the statutory formula is presumed to be an appropriate amount that is fair to both parties and adequate to meet the needs of the children. If both parties followed the guidelines, you should feel relatively certain that the amount is fair, whether you are the paying or receiving parent. It’s important, of course, that the guidelines were utilized correctly by both parties. If you suspect your spouse was hiding assets, misstating needs, or underreporting or overreporting income to game the system and gain an unfair advantage in the child support order, you’ll need to raise this issue with your attorney and the court. It might be necessary to use forensic accountants or other professionals to make sure the guidelines were followed correctly. The formula can be confusing, and an experienced child support lawyer can help ensure that both you and your spouse are putting in the right information.
The Guidelines Don’t Have to Be Followed
Although the New Jersey Child Support Guidelines are presumed to calculate an appropriate amount of support, they don’t have to be followed in every instance. You and your co-parent can agree to a different amount based on your needs and the children’s needs, and the judge can approve that different amount after reviewing the agreement to ensure it is fair in the judge’s eyes. This requirement of judicial approval can help you feel confident any amount you agree to is fair and that neither you nor your children are being taken advantage of.
Even without agreement between the spouses, the judge is empowered to deviate from the guidelines when the judge is convinced doing so would be in the child’s best interest. If you feel a deviation is necessary, you can raise the matter with the court through your attorney. The judge will hold a hearing and decide any contested support issue.
Child Support Can Change as Needs Change
Everyone involved in a divorce or child custody matter knows that as children grow and develop, their needs change as well. Any child support order is likely to take these expected changes into account and deal with them appropriately. However, other changes might also occur in the future that were not expected. These can include a significant income change (up or down) for either parent, remarriage of one of the parents, or health issues arising with a parent or child. If a change renders the current child support order unfair to a parent or no longer in the child’s best interest, the court has the power to modify it, so long as the change is proven to be permanent, substantial, and unanticipated. It’s necessary to go to court for a modification, and if the change is contested by one of the parents, litigation and a courtroom hearing will likely be necessary for the judge to make an official decision whether to modify the current order or not.
Get Professional Legal Help With Your New Jersey Child Support Matter
If you have questions about whether your child support order is fair, or if you are dealing with divorce, child custody, child support, alimony, or other family law matters in New Jersey, contact the Law Office of John B. D’Alessandro in Union to discuss your concerns. From temporary orders for child support while your divorce case is underway to final orders or post-divorce modification motions, our experienced and dedicated family law attorney is here to advise and represent you.