With the coronavirus ending so many jobs and closing many businesses, fathers are contacting me to ask if it might be possible to reduce their child support payments.
I just received such a call from a man we had not represented in his divorce a number of years ago. The man since had remarried and fathered two children with his new wife along with the three he had from his first marriage. Although he still was working, his income had been dramatically reduced during the COVID-19 lockdown of New Jersey.
He sounded stressed as he explained, “I’m paying for everybody’s medical insurance plus my ex is insisting that I pay for any uninsured medical costs for the kids living with her. I can’t afford everything that I am paying because now my pay is much smaller.”
Child support payments are based on a set of criteria, the most important of which is the ability to pay.
To have payments reduced, a divorced father in New Jersey needs to demonstrate conclusively to a judge that there has been a substantial change in their financial circumstances. Typically, doing this involves losing a job, having one’s salary reduced, an illness or injury that leaves the father unable to work and receiving disability income benefits, or retirement.
However, the guidelines do provide the possibility of some relief.
The two youngest children with his new wife may not even have been a glint in a father’s eye when the original child support calculation was made. This could be considered a substantial change in the dad’s situation and is called the “other dependent deduction.”
The problem involving non-reimbursed medical expenses is a bit more clear-cut.
An ex-wife who is the custodial parent is generally required to contribute to these expenses in proportion to her income relative to the father’s. Also, if she is living with the children in the marital home, under most circumstances the mother would be required to pay for the first $250 of medical costs not covered by insurance.
Calculating Overall Child Support for New Jersey Fathers
While the state provides guidelines for calculating child support payments for a New Jersey dad, doing so is not quite as cut-and-dried as a judge saying, “OK, you earn this much, the mother earns that much, the court will look at the adjustment you want to make, and here’s what each of you now will contribute to taking care of your children.”
Income from a salary, bonuses and tips certainly is one factor but not the only one:
- Does either parent have unearned income from dividends, interest, stock trades or other outside sources such as rental property?
- Are there Social Security or Veteran’s benefits, gambling earnings, realized profits from stock options, or severance pay a parent might be receiving from a previous job?
From this total, a list of various types of expenses get deducted:
- What taxes, union dues and insurance premiums are paid by each parent?
- What are the costs of uninsured medical expenses for, say, the deductible on a policy?
- How much are childcare expenses related to the work of each parent?
- How far apart are the homes of the two parent’s and what are the commuting costs?
Time Spent with a New Jersey Father Becomes Involved
Against all of this number crunching, the court also reviews how much time the children spend with each parent. If it is between 28% and 50% of the time, the court may very well consider the couple to be co-parents and may look at whether the current child support payments are in line with where the kids are living, full or part-time.
This is why petitioning for a reduction in child support can be a complicated process. If the situation warrants it, it can be done if the divorced New Jersey father meets the stringent requirements imposed by a court.
If you are a father in New Jersey contemplating a divorce, feel free to contact one of our family law lawyers at either 973.562.0100 in Nutley or, in Montclair, at 862.245.4620. Thanks to our electronic infrastructure, the Micklin Law Group attorneys for men and fathers are in touch with each other and the courts. Schedule a meeting in our virtual conference room with one of our family law lawyers here.