Like other states, New Jersey has child support guidelines which help judges in this state make fair and consistent decisions about how much child support a parent should pay.
Most New Jersey parents going through a divorce or, for that matter, a paternity case, will have a combined income that fall somewhere within the child support guidelines. In these cases, child support gets determined according to a set formula, although what raw numbers go in to that formula is always up for dispute.
However, the guidelines do not specifically account for households in New Jersey that earn an extraordinarily high income. For example, a New Jersey couple who are both well-paid physicians or other professionals could easily make over $200,000 a year together. Should they divorce or have a child out of wedlock, the support guidelines will not specifically account for that high level of income.
In these cases, a judge is going to have some discretion to come up with the appropriate amount of child support. There are a couple of restrictions to this discretion, however. For one, the judge cannot order less support than what a parent would have to pay if the parents’ combined income fell at the upper limit of the support guidelines’ range. On the other hand, the court may not attempt to simply apply the same formula used in the guidelines to the parent’s situation.
Courts have to instead consider a number of factors when determining how best to adjust the support guidelines to account for a high-income couple’s relatively unique situation. Both parents may therefore need to make sure they have able advocates ready to explain their respective positions on child support.