As a divorce attorney in New Jersey for over twenty years, I know first hand that one of the most popular questions I am asked on a daily basis by my clients is “what exactly is included in the New Jersey child support guidelines?” This seems to be such a popular question because, as many of you know, child support can be quite expensive and is a huge aspect of divorces involving children. The first thing I must ask my clients though when this question is asked is how much they and their soon to be ex-spouse earn together in income. The reason I ask this is because if they earn up to $187, 200, child support will most likely be calculated based solely on the Guidelines; however, if they earn more than $187, 200, additional factors will be referenced pursuant to the child support statute so that the court can make the fairest assessment of New Jersey child support for the parties. Let’s explore.
Circling back to the first question I posed, “what exactly is included in the New Jersey child support guidelines?” I have found that it is most helpful to provide my clients with a thorough list explaining exactly what is included in the Guidelines. The following list details the most common expenses that are included in the New Jersey Child Support Guidelines. Let’s explore.
It should go without saying, but food is definitely considered an expense that is included when determining a child support amount. It covers all food and non-alcoholic drinks that the couple’s child/children will need to maintain good health, strong bones, and a healthy weight. When I tell my clients that “food” is included as an expense, I am then asked “but what about alcohol?” No, alcohol is not included in the child support guidelines.
I find that when I explain to my clients that clothing is an expense included in the support guidelines, some of them look at me and do not seem to be happy. The reason is that clothing, unlike the food expense, covers basically everything. If the couple can still easily afford luxury items once their divorce is finalized and that is the lifestyle the children have grown accustomed to, the court will acknowledge that point. Clothing does not just include clothes also. Rather is included shoes, diapers, coats, and even accessories like watches, jewelry and handbags! Furthermore, the “clothing” expense also included proper maintenance of clothing. If the children have a sports uniform that can only be dry-cleaned, that is an expense that is included in the support guidelines. Or, if you have a daughter that owns a fur coat, storage of that coat in the summertime is even included!
Suitable, comfortable housing is but of course included in the child support expenses, plain and simple. The court will look to the various expenses associated with owning or renting a home and factor those in when determining the child support award.
The costs associated with owning a car are also another set of expenses that are included in the child support guidelines. Whether you lease the car or own it, the payments made toward that ownership, in addition to maintenance and gas are considered expenses the court looks at when determining the child support award. In addition to the car itself, the cost of obtaining a license, parking the car, tolls, and even registration fees are all expenses the court will examine. Important to note, if you decide to purchase or lease a car primarily for your child, the expenses associated with it will not be considered when determining child support. Only if your child will be driving one of the cars you already own will the expenses associated with the car be considered.
If your children belong to sports teams, reasonable membership fees and equipment costs are considered expenses included in the New Jersey child support guidelines. Additionally, expenses related to entertainment, like purchasing a TV, renting a movie, or buying a camera are considered recreational expenses, which are included in the child support guidelines. Lastly in this category, pets and the costs associated with owning a pet are included.
Medical expenses up to $250 per child are considered expenses included in the child support guidelines. That does not include prescription drugs, however. Rather it includes co-pays for doctor visits and non-prescription drugs like Tylenol or Zyrtec.
Again, it is important to remember that if you and your soon to be ex-spouse earn more than the threshold amount, you will likely be held accountable for more expenses when child support is determined. For any child support related questions, please contact my New Jersey divorce and family law firm today. Thank you.