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 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.
Common Questions about Child Support
If my ex and I have joint custody of our children, do I still have to pay child support?
Child support is calculated based on the arrangement of time spent with the child as well as a parent’s income. As a result, one parent will owe some amount of child support to the other, even if both parents have an agreement that shares custody equally.
How is child support calculated?
In Pennsylvania and New Jersey, courts calculate child support using a complex algebraic equation based on the relevant average cost for a family to raise a child. The equation also factors in parent income, the number of children, and more. The determined payment is the approximate amount the parent would have theoretically spent to care for the child, had the divorce never taken place.
While many family law firms can use software to estimate the amount a parent will likely owe, it is often difficult to predict the final amount with absolute certainty.
Who Pays Child Support?
All across the United States, it is legally upheld that biological or adoptive parents need to pay for their children’s upbringing. This includes times when the parents are not married. Child support payments are usually granted to the parent who will have the most physical custody of the children. They typically do not pay child support themselves as their provision of custody serves that purpose. Child support is supposed to be for the benefit of the child, allowing them to live comfortably as if their parents were still under one roof.
When a child support order is in place, the paying parent must make regular on-time payments for the support of their children. These monies are supposed to cover mainly housing, food, and clothing. While it is natural for the paying parent to want to know how the money is being spent, the receiving parent is not legally required to give such an accounting. Our attorneys cannot guarantee what your child support payments will be used for or that you will receive the amount of child support you believe is fair, we can help you negotiate a child support agreement with your spouse or we can work with the judge in your case to show them why you deserve what you do.
Sometimes the court will allow child support add-ons. These add-ons are increases in the amount of child support usually done as a percentage of the regular amount that meant for the purpose of paying additional costs. These costs could include:
- Medical insurance
- Extracurricular activities
- Educational expenses
You may feel burdened by how much child support your spouse or the courts believe you should pay, or you may be worried about making ends meet while receiving a low child support amount. Whatever your child support concerns may be now or even in the future, we can help you address them confidently to increase your chances of getting your financial wants and needs met.
When Would I Need Child Support Amendments?
Life circumstances rarely stay the same for too long. You get a raise, lose your job, get a promotion, or sustain an injury that requires you to take an extended time period away from work. Your child could require special education or medical care, or your ex-spouse could have another baby. When issuing orders for child custody and child support, the family court knows that sometime in the future, you might have a very valid reason for wanting to change either one of them. Because of this, they do allow you to submit a request to amend the child support or custody order.
If you believe your circumstances have changed enough to warrant an amendment to either of these elements, reach out to one of our dedicated divorce lawyers. Our legal team can help you determine if filing for an amendment is appropriate in your situation and what to ask for based on your changes in circumstance.
Typical circumstances in which the court will grant a child support modification include:
- The needs of the child have changed (for instance the child develops special medical or educational needs)
- One parent gets a different job with a higher income
- One parent involuntarily loses a job or experiences a decrease in their income
- One parent has become responsible for the support of a new child
- A marked change in how much time the child stays with each parent
- One parent has become disabled
- One parent has been incarcerated
- There have been notable changes in any of the other factors the court took into consideration when setting the existing order
If you have kids and you’ve decided to divorce your spouse, you likely have many questions about the months and years to come. Feel free to call (215) 523-6900 to discuss your situation or to get help determining a child support estimate. The lawyers at Petrelli Previtera, LLC can answer all your questions regarding your family legal matter and help you get on the right track to a great resolution.
Child Support Mediation to Meet Educational Needs
Child support mediation services can help structure an education plan for your family.
Not all children have identical educational needs. You might find that your child requires a deeper financial investment for education for any number of reasons, such as:
- Private school
- Boarding school
- Special classes and enhancement opportunities to develop an extraordinary talent
- Tutoring or remedial instruction
- Compensatory education or early vocational classes for children with learning disabilities or other special needs
- College or post-college study
Wealthy families can accommodate their children’s educational needs through financial planning tools such as trusts. But what of the family with middle-class incomes and assets?
It turns out that family mediation techniques that work so well for households in crisis can also be turned to more positive ends. An adaptive form of child support mediation allows parents to work out between themselves a plan for educational support for their children. This deal then becomes the heart of a postnuptial agreement.
Mediation for educational expenses can meet several needs within the family at the same time. Because the agreement is anchored in a legal contract, it binds the parties with obligations that they cannot arbitrarily break. Such agreements can:
- Clarify and record the couple’s values and priorities in a formal way.
- Establish an obligation for parents to support their child’s education after he has reached legal adulthood.
- Guarantee a mutual commitment from both parents with regard to saving and budgeting for education.
- Prove to teenage children how seriously their parents value educational achievement.
- Commit a stepparent to support a stepchild’s schooling needs after remarriage.
Call (866) 337-4448 today to make an appointment at one of our offices in Pennsylvania or New Jersey, or to get a referral to mediation service provider in your area. Our mediation team is waiting for your call.
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.