High Income Child Support Cases In New Jersey
The New Jersey Child Support Guidelines bring a certain degree of predictability to the determination of child support awards for low and moderate-income earners. For high-income earners, however, the child support calculation is less certain.
The Guidelines specify only a minimum support level (with no guidance on an upper limit) for families with net incomes that exceed $187,200. If the combined net income of the parents is more than $187,200 per year, the court must apply the Guidelines up to $187,200 and supplement the Guidelines based award with a discretionary amount based on the remaining family income and certain statutory factors, including:the needs of each child
- the standard of living and economic circumstances of each parent
- all sources of income and assets of each parent
- the earning ability of each parent, including educational background, training, employment skills, work experience and custodial responsibility for each child (including the cost of child care), as well as the length of time and cost required for each parent to obtain training or experience for appropriate employment
- the need and capacity of the child for education, including higher education
- the age and health of the child and each parent
- the income, assets and earning ability of the child
- the parents’ responsibility for the court-ordered support of others
- reasonable debts and liabilities of the child and each parent
- any other factors the court may deem relevant.
New Jersey Court rulings show that support awards in high-income situations must meet a child’s reasonable needs and reflect the family’s lifestyle. This is based on the premise that every child has the right to be financially supported by both parents and if one or both parents are successful, the children have a right to share in that good fortune. However, a child support award in high-income scenarios should not constitute an inappropriate windfall to the child or infringe on the legitimate right of either parent to determine the appropriate lifestyle of his or her own child.
The Roles of Custodial and Non-Custodial Parents
To this end, custodial parents in high-income situations must carefully evaluate a child’s needs and the costs associated therewith. Specifically, the parent should supplement the Case Information Statement (CIS) with a detailed budget that outlines these costs.
New Jersey case law provides that the custodial parent’s budget should be broken down into two parts: the reality-based component dictated by his or her income and the added projections which will, in fact, allow the children to share in the other parent’s financial gain. This may include, for example, private school tuition, private tutoring, summer camps, music or art lessons, sports clinics, and vacations. This budget can assist the Court in determining a child support award in a high-income case.
The non-custodial parent must scrutinize any budget prepared by a custodial parent, specifically as it relates to the child’s reasonable needs and costs associated therewith. If the circumstances permit, it is a good idea for a non-custodial parent to create his or her own budget.
The custodial parent should not use the child support process as an opportunity to create an unreasonable “wish-list” for a child that does not comport with the child’s best interest. For example, the fact that a parent may be driving a luxury automobile does not mean that a child of driving age will be entitled to a similar luxury automobile, but the supporting parent’s financial wherewithal may enable a child with a need for an automobile to enjoy the luxury of an automobile, suitable and appropriate for a teen-age driver and sufficient to meet the child’s transportation needs.
Our Courts have provided that judges must be vigilant in providing for children’s needs, consistent with lifestyle and without overindulgence. Some courts have dubbed this the “Three Pony Rule,” which states that “no child, no matter how wealthy the parents, needs to be provided more than three ponies.”
Contact Our Experienced New Jersey Child Support Lawyers
If you have questions about child support, you may need the guidance of an experienced family law attorney.
At Lesnevich, Marzano-Lesnevich, Trigg, O’Cathain & O’Cathain, LLC, our team of New Jersey child support lawyers are experienced, dedicated, and committed to help those going through very difficult times. Contact us today at 201-488-1161 for a legal consultation with our New Jersey Child Support Attorneys.