What Are My Child Support Rights and Responsibilities?

Many parents do not have a clear understanding of what their rights and responsibilities are as to their minor children. Our firm can help educate them about their rights to their child.

Both divorcing parents have a legal obligation to support their minor children to the best of their ability.   The child support obligation usually continues until a child turns 19, graduates from high school or is otherwise emancipated.  There are exceptions, for example, for handicapped children, special needs children, or by agreement.  Child support is determined by using statewide guidelines.  Computations include both parents’ incomes, the percentage of time each parent spends with the child, tax deductible income and expenses, health care, child care as applicable, and other applicable factors depending on the situation.

Here are answers to some of the common questions about child support.

What is included in child support? A supported spouse is expected to pay for a minor child’s basic needs with child support.  This includes food, clothing, shelter and other life necessities.

I earn an unusually high income which means that I pay a lot of child support. What if a child support obligation brings a financial benefit or windfall to the other spouse?  The law is clear that a supported spouse can share in a high child support obligation if it is incidental to the actual child support obligation.

Are extra-curricular activities included in child support? Yes, they often are but not always.  It depends on several factors such as any agreements of the parties, what the parties can afford, and the marital standard of living.   For example, if a child had a private math tutor or had horse-back riding lessons during the marriage and wants to continue after the date of separation, it is entirely possible that the parties will split the cost or the higher wage earner could be ordered to pay those expenses.  It is very dependent on the circumstances.  Clearly, the preferable choice is for the parties to agree.  If they cannot agree then a court will make the ruling.  A higher priority will be placed on a child’s health and education than extras or so-called fun activities.

How are health care costs divided? Parents usually split the cost of any uninsured medical, dental, vision and mental health care expenses for minor children. If one or both spouses have health insurance through their employer, they will almost always be required to maintain it for the benefit of the minor children.  This does not require a child to be double insured.  Exceptions can be made depending on what a parent can afford.  For example, if one parent has a low income and the other a high income an order can be fashioned to take that into account so that the minor child’s health care needs are met.

Is either spouse required to contribute to a minor child’s college education?   When a child reaches the age of majority, neither parent is required to pay for that child’s college education or other expenses.  However, it is certainly highly desirable and it is appropriate for spouses to make an agreement to contribute to each minor child’s education within a divorce agreement.  This is a highly recommended approach if a parent wants to ensure that both parties contribute to a child’s college education.

Extensive travel is required for visitations. Who pays for that and how does that affect child support? It depends on the circumstances.  Usually, if the parents live in different cities, the receiving parent pays for the child’s travel expenses and theirs depending on the age of the child and assuming relative parity in the parties’ incomes. There are several varieties of travel arrangements that can be made for a minor child when visiting a parent who lives in another city and how that factors into child support.

My former spouse has not paid child support in years and I am paying for all of our children’s living expenses. There is a support order in place.  What do I do? You have several options.  You can either do nothing and let the amount of support owed increase with interest.  Or you can hire a private lawyer to collect the past due support and future child support as well as attorney’s fees, if appropriate.  Or, you can ask a government agency to collect past due child support.

My spouse has not worked in years. Will they have to get a job?  Eventually, almost always, yes.  The answer depends, in part, on the age and health of the parties, each spouse’s ability to work and marketable skills.  If one spouse has not worked during the marriage and is, for example, in their fifties or sixties with no marketable skills, it may be more difficult for that spouse to get a job to meet their basic needs.  Conversely, if a spouse has marketable skills or needs time to be retrained to re-enter the work force, then time is usually given for a spouse to become reasonably self-supporting.  Each case is fact specific and depends on the circumstances of the parties.

If my former spouse is ordered or agrees to find a job and does not do so, what happens next? In some cases, a spouse simply refuses or neglects to become reasonably self-supporting. When that happens, the parties can either stipulate to impute an income to that spouse or ask the Court to impute an income to that spouse and that amount be computed in any child support computation.

We know you will have many more questions about your specific family situation.  If you need legal advice or support, contact The Radol Law Firm to discuss your legal matter.

The Radol Law Firm is proud to serve the people of New Jersey in their divorce and family law, elder law, estate planning, and bankruptcy matters. Contact our firm today to schedule a consultation.