Child Support FAQ's

1. What is the child support?

Every child is entitled to support from his parents. The New Jersey child support guidelines are based on the theory that child support is determined in proportion to the parent’s income and assets as well as the child’s needs. All parents, whether natural or adoptive, have a financial obligation to support their child. This obligation continues even if the parties have divorced. A support award can be increased or decreased as circumstances may arise. In order for a party to change the amount of child support, the moving party must file a motion with the court, and establish a “change of circumstances.” 

2. How does a person obtain a child support order?

When a parent needs to obtain child support, she must make an application to the Superior Court where the parent and child reside. Normally, the clerk has pro se forms that they give to the pro se litigants. The clerk will then interview the applicant and try to obtain as much info as possible. The clerk will want to ascertain where the father lives, and where he works. Once a party makes an application for child support, the Family Division will then schedule the case for a hearing. The court will mail notices to appear to all parties in the case. The notice advises the parties as to the time, date and place to appear. If the parties are not filing for divorce, then the court will open up a non-dissolution case. The court will assign the case a FD docket number. In divorce cases, the court will assign the case a FM docket number. A FD case basically means either that the parties are not filing for divorce yet. Alternatively, it may mean that the parties were never married. In a FD case, once the application for child support is made, then the case will be scheduled to be heard before a Child Support Hearing Officer. A Child Support Hearing Officer is a trained lawyer who is appointed to assist judges to determine child support and insurance. After the Child Support Hearing Officer issues their award, the parties can either accept it, or request to see the judge to review it. At the child support hearing, both sides will present their pay stubs, W-2 info, tax returns, and health insurance info to the officer. The Child Support Hearing Officer will then review this info, and enter the pertinent data into a computer program that calculates child support. The Child Support Hearing Officer will then prepare a child support award and a worksheet, and present it to the parties. The parties can then either accept the child support award, or request to have it reviewed by the Superior Court judge. If the case is appealed to the Superior Court judge, in most of the cases the court will affirm the findings of the Child Support Hearing Officer. 

3. How is child support determined during a divorce case?

In a divorce case, an application for child support is almost always made during a preliminary hearing called a pendente lite application. Basically, the dependent spouse must file an application to the court that requests child support. These motions must be very detailed. These motions must include a completed CIS, the parties income info, a detailed description of the major family bills, and a completed child support guideline worksheet. At the motion hearing, the judge will then enter the relevant income data into his computer program, and he/she will determine a child support award. The child support award and the employment date will then be given to the Probation Department. In most case, a garnishment will start in about three weeks. The dependent spouse should start receiving checks in about 6 to 8 weeks. In the interim, the payor spouse must make direct payments to the dependent spouse until the wage garnishment kicks in.

4. What are the criteria considered by the court to determine child support?

When a court makes a child support award, the court must consider the following factors: (1) the needs of the child; (2) the standard of living and the economic circumstances of each parent; (3) the sources of income and assets of each parent; (4) the earning ability of each parent, including educational background, training, employment skills, work experience, custodial responsibility for children (including the cost of providing child care and the length of time and cost of each parent to obtain training and experience for appropriate employment); (5) the need and capacity of the child for education (including higher education); (6) the age and health of the child and parents; (7) the income and earning capacity of the child; (8) prior support orders for other children; (9) the reasonable debts and liabilities of each parent and child; and (10) any other relevant facts. 

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