Dear Cassie: How is child support determined in New Jersey?

Dear E.F.:
In New Jersey, the Child Support Guidelines controls child support payments for families whose combined net income totals $187,200.00 or less. In those cases, information such as the parties’ incomes, the amount of alimony paid and received, and the custody and parenting time schedule are input into a program called the Child Support Guidelines. The Guidelines then calculates the total sum of child support owed per week.

However, for families whose combined annual net income totals $187,200.00 or more, the Court applies the Child Support Guidelines up to the maximum of $187,200.00, and then supplements the child support sum based on the factors set forth in our child support statute and the remaining family income. Therefore, above-Guidelines cases are very fact-specific.

New Jersey law tells us that children in above-Guidelines cases are entitled to share in their parent’s good fortune. However, there is a limit to the amount of child support to be paid. This is what many lawyers refer to as the “three pony rule” – the theory goes that no matter how wealthy the paying parent is, no child needs three ponies.

In above-Guidelines cases, the dominant focus is the reasonable needs of the children, in the context of the standard of living of the parties. The burden to establish the reasonableness of the expenses for which contribution is sought is placed on the custodial parent. Once the children’s reasonable needs are established, a Court will allocate the payment of those needs between the parents, based upon their respective incomes and abilities to pay.

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Cassie Murphy is a divorce and family law Partner with the Law Offices of Paone, Zaleski & Murphy, with offices in Red Bank and Woodbridge.