Child Support

Child Support

By federal law, all states must have numerical guidelines, and the result in most cases is driven primarily by the parents’ incomes and how many overnights the children stay with each. All the relevant information is put into a grid and the calculations are made. Although the result is presumed to be correct, there are also circumstances where this presumption can be rebutted, such as for children with special needs or incomes of their own, i.e., child actors.

In New Jersey a child is not deemed emancipated, and therefore no child support obligation is due, when that child has “moved beyond the sphere of parental influence”. This can occur at any age, particularly after a child is 18 years old or older, but there is no set age when this happens. Divorce settlement agreements commonly include a section defining the events that trigger emancipation, such as completion of four years of post-high school education, marriage, entry into the armed forces or, the ultimate emancipation event, the child’s death.

Nevertheless, the New Jersey child support numerical guidelines do not apply to children over age 18 unless they have not yet graduated from high school, or are attending a post-high school educational institution as a commuter student, still living at the home of the parent receiving child support. If a child over age 18 is attending a post-high school educational institution and living there, child support is set taking into account not only the parents’ incomes and how many overnights that child stays at the home of the parent receiving child support, but also the financial contributions each parent is making to payment of the cost of attendance at that institution.

Pamela Copeland is well-versed in this area of the law, having been a member of the New Jersey State Bar Association Family Law Section’s Committee on Child Support Guidelines when they were first instituted and also having been appointed to the New Jersey Supreme Court Commission on Child Support Enforcement.