The $46,000 per month in child support supermodel Linda Evangelista is seeking from the father of her four-year-old son may raise some eyebrows.(1) After all, that’s more than some people earn in a year. And the recent court order requiring actor Mel Gibson to pay his ex $750,000 over five years to settle their bitter custody battle may stir similar reactions.(2) Although these high-cost celebrity cases may feel like revenge of a partner scorned, child custody issues are serious matters.
New Jersey considers all parents responsible for supporting their children, which means providing the basics of food, shelter and clothing. That responsibility does not end when a marriage dissolves.
Oftentimes couples get caught in a financial “catch-22” once they marry and have children. Now there are three or more mouths to feed. If both parents work, they incur the added expense of childcare. If one parent cuts his/her working hours to avoid the childcare expense, that parent’s income is then lowered and there is less money to pay expenses. Finances are generally one of the major stress factors in marriage. Divorce doesn’t solve the problem either; rather, it can make financial problems worse, because after divorce there are two households to support in addition to the continued need to provide the basics.(3)
After divorce parents fall into the custodial or non-custodial category. The custodial parent is the one with whom the child(ren) spend most of their time; the non-custodial parent is the one responsible for paying support.(4)
When determining support amounts, courts consider several factors: gross income of each parent – including salaries, bonuses, tips, commissions, investment income, etc. — and the expenses directly related to the care of the children, including daycare, clothing, food, and schooling. The courts also take into account the type of custody the parents have. This can either be shared or sole custody. Sole custody is determined when one parent spends less that 28% of overnight time with the children.(4)
In an ideal situation, couples will come to an agreement, known as a consent order, often with help from a mediator or hearing officer specializing in child support issues.(3) The State has developed guidelines to help reach that agreement. (See www.judiciary.state.nj.us/csguide/index.htm) If an agreement is not reached, the matter goes to a judge. And what the judge decides is law.(4)
If you find yourself in need of a New Jersey divorce attorney that specializes in child support, contact The Rotolo Law Firm. The Rotolo Law Firm family law attorneys will work hard for you.