No. According to New Jersey divorce law, the duty to support children until emancipation, irrespective of marital status, is not only fundamental, but it is also referred to as a basic principle of natural law. It is at the heart of the “best interest of the child” standard that governs decisions in the family courts.
When setting a support award in cases in which both parents’ combined net income does not exceed $2,900 after tax per week, a child support guidelines worksheet is used. Included in the guidelines is income from both parents from all sources, so that the child benefits from the total income of both parties and then this sum is allocated proportionately between the parents. However, if the parties joint weekly net income exceeds $2,900, the court will consider the statutory factors, which include the needs of the child, the standard of living and economic circumstances of each parent, and all sources of income and assets of each parent.
The amount of child support that is to be paid is not based upon the level the child enjoyed while his or her parents were married. Children are entitled to live post-divorce in a way that reflects one or both of their parents’ good fortune. This is why the court may consider all sources of income and assets of both parents including, but not limited to, a parent’s inheritance and personal injury proceeds.
Since the duty to pay child support belongs to both parents, if the payee spouse marries a wealthy person, it does not excuse the payor spouse from supporting his child. In addition, subsequent spouses do not have an obligation to pay child support to a child that is not their own. However, if the non-parent new spouse’s income is available to the parent then that may impact how much of the parent’s income is available for the above support guidelines.
Therefore, regardless of whom the recipient spouse marries, in general, the duty to support your child is absolute and will always be enforced. It is also important to note that it is the right of the child to receive this support and generally no party can waive that right on behalf of that child.
John E. Finnerty, Jr., Esq. is the senior partner of Finnerty, Canda & Drisgula, P.C. in Fairlawn, New Jersey. He is a certified matrimonial-law attorney and the former chair of the family law section of the NJ State Bar Association. Finnerty has received the Saul Tischler Award in recognition of his contributions to the development of family law in NJ over a lifetime.