Child Custody, Child Support and Parenting Time

Child Custody, Support and Parenting Time Solutions in NJ
Relocations, grandparents’ rights and other child custody issues

New Jersey courts have the power to impose a parenting plan on divorcing parents, but they strongly encourage the parents to work together to come up with a plan of their own design. A parenting plan addresses such issues as the schedule of when the child will be in the care of each parent, each parent’s participation in the child’s education, healthcare and religious upbringing, and the financial support of the child. Price, Meese, Shulman & D’Arminio help divorcing parents develop a parenting plan that addresses all of the important issues of child custody and parenting time.

Child custody options in New Jersey

In New Jersey, there are two kinds of child custody — legal custody and physical custody. Legal custody is a parent’s authority to take part in the major decisions about the child’s healthcare, education and upbringing. Physical custody refers to the time the child is physically present with a parent.

New Jersey divorce courts favor arrangements in which both parents share responsibility for the child. Consequently, joint legal custody is very common. As for physical custody, however, many courts find that it’s best for the child to have a single, stable home base, so they often award primary physical custody to one parent and generous visitation to the other parent, including overnight visits. The exception is when the court determines that visitation with a parent is not advisable because the parent has a history of domestic violence, criminality or drug addiction.

Determining the best interests of the child

Virtually every decision that a New Jersey court makes about a child — including child custody, parenting time and child support — is based on what is in the best interests of the child. To determine the best interests of the child, the court looks at a number of factors, including:

  • Age of the child
  • Preferences of the child and parents
  • Physical health of the child and parents
  • Emotional health of the child and parents
  • Child’s relationship with the parents
  • Child’s adjustment to home, school and community
  • Job-related demands on each parent
  • Parent’s relationships with others
  • Home environment and possibility of abuse

Depending on changes in circumstances, custody, visitation and parenting plans may be modified with the approval of the court.

What happens if one parent needs to relocate?

With the mobility of many families today — and job prospects in other towns, states or even countries opening up — a divorced parent may want to move and relocate his or her children as well. However, New Jersey prohibits divorced or separated parents from removing their children from the state without court authorization — unless both parents consent or the child is considered old enough to make a decision. If court permission is required, there must be a good faith reason for relocating — for example, a new career — the court will then consider whether the move is in the best interest of the child or children and whether it will affect the non-custodial parent’s visitation rights. We can help you navigate the confusing rules regarding relocation, whether it’s in a negotiation with your former spouse or convincing the court of your good faith reason for relocating. We’re here to assist custodial parents with preserving their freedom of movement and help non-custodial parents with their relationship with their children.

Understanding Your Child Support Obligation in New Jersey

Experience and guidance for the best outcomes for you and your children

Divorce means the end of your marriage — not the end of being a parent. Both parents have a responsibility to provide their child with food, housing, medical care, clothing, education, entertainment and other necessities. Child support is paid by the non-custodial parent to the custodial parent, according to guidelines set forth by the State of New Jersey to cover these specific expenses. We help parents determine and negotiate — and, when necessary, litigate — a child support plan that is fair and realistic.

What do the child support guidelines take into account when determining an obligation?

New Jersey has guidelines that determine each parent’s relative child support obligation based on a number of factors:

  • Taxable and nontaxable income
  • Overnights per week with the child
  • Number of dependents
  • Alimony paid or received
  • Prior child support orders
  • Mandatory retirement contributions
  • Union dues
  • Cost of health insurance
  • Unreimbursed healthcare expenses
  • Government benefits
  • Work-related childcare costs
  • Any court-approved extraordinary expenses

On a case-by-case basis, however, these guidelines may be disregarded or adjusted. Before deviating from the guidelines, however, a court must consider the totality of the circumstances, including parents’ financial status, the needs of the child, all sources of income and any other factors that the court might deem relevant.

How does child support get paid to the custodial parent?

If the noncustodial parent receives income from an employer or government benefits, the New Jersey Family Support Payment Center (NJFSPC) may automatically deduct child support payments from his or her paycheck by having the employer withhold the amount of the child support and send it to the NJFSPC, which then forwards the payment to the custodial parent. Income withholding also can be applied to unemployment benefits, Social Security benefits, disability payments and other sources of income. In other cases, such as when the noncustodial parent is self-employed, the court and the parties may determine another way for the noncustodial parent to pay support. In these situations, the court’s child support order will specify how the support is to be paid. We can help you pursue the financial support your child deserves.

What happens if your former spouse won’t pay child support?

If the non-custodial parent fails to pay child support, the court has a range of enforcement methods, including:

  • Garnishment of tax refunds
  • Wage garnishment
  • Driver license suspension
  • Suspension of professional and occupational licenses
  • Passport revocation
  • Civil contempt proceedings
  • Criminal contempt proceedings

How long does child support last?

Child support payments continue until all children of the marriage become “emancipated.” Children become emancipated:

  • When they marry
  • When they enter military service
  • By court order
  • By the terms of a support agreement
  • When they reach a specified milestone (e.g., high school or college graduation)
  • When they reach an appropriate age (often, but not always, 18)

However, child support should never be altered without the court being involved. Agreeing with your former spouse to change the amount of support — or deciding that a child is emancipated on your own — is not the proper way to adjust your circumstances. We can help you understand how to make the best out of this situation.

NJ laws on grandparent and grandchild relationships

New Jersey has a statute governing the rights of grandparents to see their grandchildren. In order to get court-ordered visitation rights, a grandparent must prove that visitation is in the best interests of the child. There are eight factors considered by a judge in determining this:

  • The relationship between the child and the applicant
  • The relationship between each of the child’s parents or the person with whom the child is residing and the applicant
  • The time which has elapsed since the child last had contact with the applicant
  • The effect that such visitation will have on the relationship between the child and the child’s parents or the person with whom the child is residing
  • If the parents are divorced or separated, the time-sharing arrangement which exists between the parents with regard to the child
  • The good faith of the applicant in filing the application
  • Any history of physical, emotional or sexual abuse or neglect by the applicant
  • Any other factor relevant to the best interests of the child

However, despite the statute, the Supreme Court of New Jersey has held that grandparents must prove that denial of visitation with their grandchild is detrimental to the child, a much more stringent test. Many applications for grandparent visitation are denied under this test — a reason to speak with our experienced, knowledgeable attorneys today.

Changing your child support or child custody orders

In the case of an order dealing with child support, child custody or child visitation, the motion also must explain how the proposed modification would serve the best interests of the child. Our matrimonial law attorneys at Price, Meese, Shulman, & D’Arminio have many years of experience in pursuing and challenging requests for modifications of alimony, child support, child visitation and child custody.

Enforcing a New Jersey child support order

It is not uncommon for a noncustodial parent to fall behind on child support payments. When that happens, the court has broad powers to enforce its child support order. The steps a court can take to enforce a support order include:

  • Wage assignment — The court can order the noncustodial parent’s employer to make direct payments to the custodial parent from the noncustodial parent’s wages.
  • Writ of execution — The court can order a seizure of the noncustodial parent’s property.
  • Civil contempt — The court can hold the noncustodial parent in contempt until the past-due support is paid.
  • Criminal contempt — The state can pursue criminal contempt charges against the noncustodial parent.
  • Tax refunds — The IRS is authorized to pay past-due child support to the custodial parent from any tax refunds the noncustodial parent may be owed.

If the noncustodial parent has vanished, the federal government will help track him or her down through the Parent Locator Service, which uses Social Security and IRS data to find nonpaying parents through their employers. If the noncustodial parent has moved out of state, the Uniform Enforcement of Support Act allows the prosecutor in the city or county where the nonpaying parent now lives to bring an action to enforce the support order.

Modifying a New Jersey child support order

Either parent may petition the court to modify the support order at any time before the child is emancipated. To obtain a modification, you must show that the circumstances that existed at the time of the latest child support order have changed significantly.

If either parent’s income has increased or decreased substantially, the court may grant a modification of the child support order. If the child’s needs change dramatically — because of illness or disability, for example — the court is likely to increase the support. The mere passage of time also can justify an increase because clothes, food and other essentials cost more as the child gets older.

Support may be reduced if the custodial parent’s income or assets increase — or there’s a significant decrease in the noncustodial parent’s income or assets, among other reasons. Regardless of the reason for the change, any modification of a support order must be done through the courts and not by a private agreement between you and your former spouse.

Contact our family law firm about your child support issues

At Price, Meese, Shulman & D’Arminio, P.C., we believe in constructive solutions to complex family law issues. We assist clients throughout New Jersey seek the best results possible for their children. Contact us online or call 201 391 3737 to schedule a consultation about resolving child-support conflicts.


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