Financially supporting a child regardless of where he or she lives or with whom might seem like a no-brainer, but it can be an incredibly complex legal matter. Many parents must deal with child support matters during other stressful periods of life, such as divorce or during serious life changes.
Custodial parents can receive child support payments from their non-custodial exes even if they never married. In some instances, parents who share 50/50 custody might still have a child support plan, especially if one parent greatly out earns the other.
Why can't I just make an agreement on my own?
You might think that you and your ex can create an agreement that benefits your child, but this is usually not the best option. Without an official child support order, you cannot pursue payments from an ex who has suddenly stopped. There is also no guarantee that the amount you agree on will be appropriate financial support or that monthly payments will consistently stay the same.
If you are going through a divorce, you are likely to deal with child custody and support matters during the process anyway. Family law judges will refer to New Jersey state guidelines during this process, which typically take the parents' incomes and the child's needs into account.
I think the judge will order more than I can afford. Can I do anything?
Guidelines are just that, and are not necessarily appropriate for everyone's situation. Judges can forego state guidelines when necessary. If you have extenuating circumstances -- including additional children to support or extensive debt -- a judge might consider ordering a lower payment than the guidelines might otherwise create.
However, lowering your support payments because your child's custodial parent has a significantly higher income is not likely to happen. Children have a legal right to benefit from their parents' incomes, so even if a custodial parent has a higher income than a non-custodial parent, child support payments will probably remain the same.
Getting support when you never married
Nearly a quarter of children in the United States are born to unmarried parents. These children have just as much of a right to financial support from both parents as their peers, but there are additional steps. Parents must establish paternity of a child through voluntary or court-ordered measures, after which courts can determine and order child support payments.
Ultimately, child support payments are for the benefit and financial support of one person only -- the child. Establishing a child support order through New Jersey family law courts is essential, but can be understandably overwhelming. Most parents find the process much easier when they have an experienced counsel on their side, guiding them through each step of the way.