According to New Jersey law, the duty to support children until emancipation – irrespective of marital status – is not only fundamental, but is also referred to as a basic principle of natural law. It is also at the heart of the “best interest of the child” standard that governs decisions in the family courts.
In setting a support award, in cases in which the combined net income of both parents 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, standard of living and economic circumstances of each parent, all sources of income, and assets of each parent.
Children are entitled to live post-divorce in a way that reflects one or both of their parent’s 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/her own 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 spouse’s income is available to the parent, then that may impact how much of the parent’s income is available for above guidelines support.
The duty to support your child is absolute and will always be enforced – regardless of whom your ex has married. Your child has a right to receive this support, and generally, no parent can waive that right on behalf of the 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.