What Makes New Jersey’s Child Support Model Different?

A Comparison of Child Support Models in New Jersey and Other States

What Makes New Jersey's Child Support Model Different?When a family is no longer together, the emotional and physical changes are tough for everyone involved, especially when there are children. Child support is a way to continue to provide the same standard of living (or as close to it as possible) for the custodial parent and the children. Calculating child support is a complex process, even for the courts. There are guidelines that can provide direction, but each situation is unique. The nuances and intricacies in determining a fair amount of child support require careful calculation and contemplation on both sides. It is to your advantage to consult with a family law attorney who can provide the necessary support and guidance during this challenging time.

The Framework of the Guidelines for New Jersey

The Family courts base their child support decisions on the “Child Support Guidelines” created by economists at the behest of the Supreme Court of New Jersey. These guidelines are designed to provide a fair and uniform way of determining the appropriate amount of child support for each family, ensuring that the process is equitable and just. The Family Court uses the guidelines as a starting point to come to a fair decision, providing reassurance to both parents.

The guidelines are based on what the family’s financial means would be to support their children had they not divorced. The parent’s gross incomes are calculated and divided into weekly amounts. Adjustments are made for alimony, other child support obligations, and taxes to determine each party’s weekly net income. The parties’ combined net income determines the base award for support (Appendix IX-F includes the chart of basic child support). Additionally, the weekly net incomes are compared to calculate the percentage of support each parent will be responsible for. If Parent A makes $500 weekly and Parent B makes $2,000 weekly, the total weekly support amount is split 25/75. According to the child support chart, the child support amount for their two children is $419. Divided between the parents, Parent A’s share is $ 104.75, while Parent B will pay $314.25. These weekly allotments may increase or decrease depending on the cost of childcare, medical insurance, dental insurance, and the number of overnight visits the children have with the non-custodial parent.

Comparing Child Support Models in NJ and Other States


There are three methods of calculation for child support. New Jersey’s method is known as the Income Shares Model because the parents’ resources are pooled to arrive at a fair amount of support. Approximately 40 states have adopted a similar model.

The Percentage of Income Model is a percentage of the noncustodial parent’s income, excluding the other parent’s income. This model has two kinds: a flat percentage and a varying percentage. A Flat Percentage of Income Model applies a specific percentage of the parent’s income destined for child support regardless of how much the parent earns. The Varying Percentage of Income Model increases the percentage of the parent’s obligation based on the amount they earn. So, someone who earns $700 weekly would pay a lower percentage than someone who earns $1,200 weekly. This model is used in Texas, Mississippi, Wisconsin, Alaska, Nevada, and North Dakota.

The Melson Formula calculates child support so parents have the financial resources to meet their needs and their child’s. Named after Judge Elwood F. Melson, its creator, it resembles the Income Shares Model. Its principles are that the parents’ financial needs should be met, as well as the children’s, to ensure a high quality of life. Delaware, Hawaii, and Montana are the only states that use this model.

The advantage of using New Jersey’s Income Shares Model is a perceived fairness and balance between the parties. It is also the most flexible child support calculation method. New Jersey’s model also allows for which parent has physical custody of the child and each parent’s earning ability, income, debts, and assets. Each party is responsible for contributing to the care and welfare of the child based on their net income. A disadvantage of this method is that the cost of caring for a child is frequently underestimated, and most of the financial burden falls on the custodial parent.

Parents’ Income

A plausible and payable amount can be established because New Jersey’s model pools the parents’ resources. When using the Percentage of Income Model, the child’s expenses aren’t a factor, and the calculated support may not be enough to meet the child’s needs. Moreover, only the non-custodial parent’s income is considered, and those states that use a flat-rate model apply the same percentage regardless of the parent’s income.

Number of Children

Under New Jersey’s model, child support increases with multiple children. However, a disadvantage is that the support per child is less than it would be for one. Some expenses, such as rent and transportation, do not increase based on the number of children in the home, so each child does not receive the same amount that one child would.


Most states have provisions in their child support calculations that include expenses, with particular attention paid to health insurance. The New Jersey Family Courts also evaluate unique circumstances such as a child with special needs, care for elderly or disabled family members, additional alimony, and child support to another family. States that use the Percentage of Income Model do not include expenses when determining the amount of support to be paid.

Custody and Visitation

Contrasting Child Support Frameworks between New Jersey and Other States The courts prefer that parents share custody as much as possible in concern for the child’s emotional well-being. In sole parenting, the child primarily lives with one parent. That parent is the PPR or parent of the primary residence, while the PAR is the parent of the alternative residence. The PAR has parenting time (visitation) for scheduled periods, but the child support would be calculated using the sole parenting worksheet. The PPR’s part of the child support will be used directly on the child in the home.

Shared parenting is calculated differently when the PAR has two or more overnight stays a week, and the child has a separate living space.

New Jersey’s Focus on Family-Specific Details

New Jersey’s child support model affords flexibility and focuses on the details presented by each family. There is no one-size-fits-all attitude when it comes to child support. The purpose of child support is to provide economic support for the child’s needs. It should not be used for the custodial parent’s personal expenses. Child support can cover basic needs such as housing, medical, and school expenses (supplies, clothes, books, and field trips), extracurricular activities such as sports, summer camp, music lessons, or other after school activities, and basic needs such as food, clothing, entertainment, and anything else the children may need for daily living. Also, among the 50 states, New Jersey falls to #47 in terms of the average amount of support paid.

Protect Your Child’s Future and Ensure Fairness in NJ Child Support Decisions with our Millburn NJ Lawyers

Divorce is incredibly complicated, and child support is never a cut-and-dried decision. The information required by the court can seem overwhelming. Without a knowledgeable attorney, you risk having an unfair decision made regarding child support. Your child’s well-being depends on you and your co-parent working together and providing the support they need but in an equitable way.

The Montanari Law Group has years of family law experience in Montclair, Hawthorne, Haledon, Millburn, Franklin Lakes, Caldwell, Woodland Park, Ridgewood, Verona, and towns across Northern New Jersey. We will work diligently to represent you in your child support case. We know your child’s well-being is the motivating factor, and our seasoned child support and custody attorneys are ready to guide you through this process.

To learn more about your legal options in a child support, divorce, or other family law matter, call today for a free consultation at (973) 233-4396 or reach out to us online and make an appointment.


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