Spousal Support and Child Support

In New Jersey the two main categories of support are alimony and child support when going through divorce.  There are many important legal concepts parties should consider and understand about alimony and child support.  This article is designed to give you some general ideas about most common scenarios in New Jersey when parties are divorcing.  Obviously each individual family is unique and it is critically important to consult with an experienced family lawyer and provide your unique facts to understand the direction of your case. At Helfand & Associates we thoroughly consider your unique circumstances.

Alimony and child support are based on the parties incomes or imputed incomes.  The income can be actual, imputed, passive, investment income, active or unearned if one is unemployed or underemployed.

If the parties have substantially similar income, i.e. one person earns $100,000 and the other $115,000, this would not typically be a situation where alimony would be paid from one party to the other. It does not matter who is earning more or less, mom or dad, husband or wife.  The law is based on numbers not sex.  Alimony is a payment from one spouse to the other to maintain a similar “lifestyle” or standard of living.  Unless parties are worth millions, it is generally unrealistic to expect the exact same lifestyle after divorce when there are two households rather than one, but the goal is to get a reasonable figure based on needs and ability to pay and facts.  If a doctor earns $300,000 and his wife is a teacher earning $90,000, he should expect to pay her alimony based on the factors within the law.  Alimony is not based on a formula in New Jersey. (See Spousal Support/Alimony page.)

When divorcing parties have children, child support also must be considered.  In New Jersey we have Child Support Guidelines that are updated regularly.  The guidelines analyze what average intact families spend on their children based on their household income.  So if we have a stay at home dad and a mom that earns $300,000 or two parents each earning $150,000, the same basic child support amount is used.

Obviously some families spend more than others but to avoid more litigation, the guidelines, are typically applied as a starting point.  Many different factors are included in the guidelines.  The guidelines analyze  percentage of each household’s income, taxes, mandatory retirement or union contributions other responsibilities for children from past or current relationships, age of the children, number of children, and government payment for children such as Social Security.  The guidelines also, of course, look at the number of overnights with each parent.  What parties should understand is that fighting over an extra day, or overnight with the children often makes only a minimal change in the child support figure.

If quality time and the best interest of the children is the goal for more time, great.  If the real issue is money, run the numbers first with your lawyer before you argue.  It may cost more to pay a lawyer to argue than pay an extra $30.00 per week to adjust child support.  

Work related child care, the child’s health insurance premiums, uncovered medical expenses, children’s’ cars are all items added to the basic child support guidelines.

Many activities and expenses are covered by the guidelines.  However parties also often agree to pay additional funds for extracurricular activities.  Private schools and camps for the children are not covered by the standard child support guideline figures.

When parties have very high incomes exceeding $3,600 per week net after tax income or $187,000 per year, the child support guidelines don’t apply and the children’s actual budget and needs are also considered.  When parties have very high levels of income or variable compensation, i.e. base, bonus, stock options, business income these numbers must be properly analyzed for accuracy with the help of a forensic accountant to ensure a good result.  More complex forms of income call for more complex arrangements regarding alimony and child support including annual reviews and often arrangements based on percentages of different components of income. i.e. base and bonus.

People should also know that when children attend college in New Jersey child support does not end but must be reanalyzed along with the costs of college.  Emancipation of children in New Jersey typically does not occur until the timely completion of college or vocational school.  

As you can see “support” is not that simple however, it also can fall into place quickly.  With proper evaluation and information, parties can come to a fair deal and move forward.  It is also important to understand that people can make creative alimony and child support arrangements outside of Court using Alternative Dispute Resolution, that are more flexible or customized than a Judge could order.  Always consider working with a mediator to try and resolve your child support and alimony issues.  Always use competent experienced counsel to guide you in the right direction.


For a free half hour consultation call Helfand & Associates at 973-428-0800, 0ur experienced matrimonial attorneys, handling all aspects of Family Law.

Tanya N. Helfand, Esq. is a Certified Matrimonial Attorney, a Mediator and Panelist in the Morris and Essex County ESP Programs.  The firm welcomes your questions and inquiries at [email protected]. We handle cases in Bergen, Essex, Morris, Hudson, Union, Somerset, Sussex and other New Jersey counties.