When a married couple begins the divorce process and they have kids together, child support will also be a major element of the settlement.
A parent makes child support payments on a weekly or monthly basis. In Pennsylvania and New Jersey, for example, payments continue on until the youngest child reaches age 18. In New Jersey, payments may continue for any children over 18 who attends college, or if the minor child obtains emancipation.
What is Child Support?
Child support is the money the parent without physical custody must pay the parent with custody. The support money helps pay for the child’s needs, such as:
- Food, clothing, and shelter,
- Medical and dental expenses,
- Costs for education, such as school supplies,
- Childcare expenses, and
- Basic travel expenses.
Your child support arrangement will depend on your unique situation. Each state’s rules differ, and the court may also make unique specifications in the child support agreement.
How Do the Courts Calculate Child Support in Pennsylvania and New Jersey?
In the 1980s, Congress passed federal laws regarding child support. For example, they ordered states to establish guidelines for determining the base amount of support. These laws came into effect due to beliefs that child support payments were too low. The government also recognized that payments varied too much for similar circumstances, which caused confusion and complaints.
Today, both Pennsylvania and New Jersey calculate the final amount using a complex equation. The formula factors in things like:
- Each parent’s income,
- The number of children,
- The children’s needs,
- The parent’s ability to help pay for these needs, and
- The children’s standard of living before divorce.
Most family law attorneys have and frequently use software to assist in computing the guideline child support amount. The formulas are based on studies on the normal costs for a family to raise children. However, each case is unique, so it is often difficult to predict an amount with absolute certainty.
Payment guidelines attempt to approximate how much a parent would have spent on a child if the divorce had never taken place. The courts find the final amount after plugging their estimates into the guideline formula. The guidelines also apply equally to children born to married parents and to children born out of wedlock.
If you’re working through a divorce and have kids, you may be curious to know how much your child support payments might be. The Pennsylvania Child Support Program offers a child support tool. You can plug in your information online to estimate the amount of your monthly child support payments. The New Jersey Department of Human Services also offers a similar tool.
Contact Our Child Support Lawyers for Assistance
Need more information? Feel free to contact our office if you have questions about child support in Pennsylvania or New Jersey. We can also help you estimate possible payments. Our firm uses the same software the courts use to determine guideline support amounts, and we can crunch some numbers for you.