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New Jersey child support, custody, visitation, and wage garnishment rules

Use this New Jersey child support law to learn about your child support rights and responsibilites.

How is New Jersey child support determined?

In New Jersey, provisions for the support, care and education of a child may be ordered to be paid by a parent. The factors the courts consider are:

  • the needs of the child
  • the standard or living and the financial circumstances of both parents
  • the financial resources, needs and obligations of both parents
  • the earning power of each parent
  • the child’s need and capacity for education, including college work
  • the age and health of the parents and the child
  • any income and assets and earning ability of the child
  • whether either parent has a responsibility to support others
  • any debts and liabilities of the parents or the child
  • any other relevant factors

There are official New Jersey Child Support guidelines, designed to be in the best interests of the child, that the courts use to help determine the correct amount of child support. These will be followed, unless both parents agree to an amount other than that calculated by the guidelines, or the courts decide the guidelines are unjust due to specific circumstances of the case.

At what age does child support payments end?

Generally, the obligation ends when the child reaches 18 years of age.

New Jersey's custody guidelines:

Generally, the parents agree upon decisions about parenting and custody. If there is no agreement, then the courts will make these decisions.

In New Jersey, joint or sole custody may be awarded, without any preference given based on the sex of the parent. The courts consider the best interest of the child based on the following:

  • the parents' ability to agree and communicate in matters relating to the child
  • the parents' ability to accept the custody arrangement
  • any history of failing to allow parenting time without good cause (i.e. abuse)
  • the interaction and relationship of the child with his or her parents and siblings
  • domestic violence
  • child's safety and the odds of either parent being abused by the other
  • the child's preference as soon as the child is of sufficient age to make an intelligent and informed decision
  • the continuity and quality of the child's education
  • fitness of the parents
  • stability of the home environment and the needs of the child
  • proximity of the parents' homes
  • parents' employment responsibilities and the extent and quality of the time spent with the child prior to the separation
  • the age and number of children in each household

In New Jersey, a non-custodial parent may not forcibly take a minor child from the custodial parent's actual physical custody.

New Jersey's medical insurance guidelines:

Generally, the decision as to which parent is going to provide medical insurance coverage for the child and how medical bills will be paid is set out in the marital settlement agreement. Usually, if a reasonable medical insurance plan is available through one of the parent’s employment, they are required to cover their child on it.

How permanent are the provisions for New Jersey child support and custody ?

Court orders providing for support and custody of children are subject to change or modification to reflect significant changes in income, and/or living arrangements of the children.

While all orders concerning the children are modifiable in the future, we encourage you to not enter into an agreement based on the idea that it can always be changed or modified later.

Wage garnishment for child support payments:

Most states, including New Jersey, have a provision for withholding child support directly from the earnings of the parent who has been ordered to provide support. It is withheld much like income tax is withheld from earnings payments.

This way of paying and receiving child support is generally easier for both parties and considered a very dependable solution. The way it typically works is, once the support is withheld, it is then sent to the state agency authorized to receive and disburse payments. Once it has been verified that the support was paid, it is then sent to the parent designated to receive the support.

The parent receiving child support is given a choice of whether or not it shall be paid through the state agency. For this privilege, the parent will generally pay a nominal fee and become a IV-D services recipient.

How does joint custody work?

To understand joint custody, you must first know that there are two types of custody - physical custody and legal custody. 

Physical custody refers to where the child resides. In joint physical custody (now called shared custody) of minor children,  both parents share the responsibilities of the children, and both parents approve all major decisions related to the children. The children must reside with each parent more than 28% of the time in order to fall into this category

While joint physical custody is a 50-50 sharing of responsibilities and major decisions affecting the children, it rarely works out to be a 50-50 sharing of time with the children. Usually, one parent is named as the parent of primary residence and the other parent (called the parent of alternate residence) is granted parenting time. The parent of primary residence typically retains the decision making power to determine the child’s primary residence and school and to designate things such as the child’s primary physician.

Legal custody does not involve where the child resides. In joint legal custody, the child may live with one parent, but both parents receive the health, education and welfare reports, and both have input but not veto power in major decisions such as college or non-elective surgery. When the parents cannot agree, the court decides for them. 

How New Jersey determines child visitation:

Generally, parents are free to have parenting time with their children at times that are mutually agreed to by both parents. However, when parents cannot agree, the standard parenting time schedule accepted most everywhere in the nation is:

  • every other weekend plus one or two dinners per week
  • three to five (3-5) weeks during the summer
  • alternating holidays

When a parent lives in another state and has infrequent parenting time on a regular basis, they often receive a large share of the parenting time during the summer and on school vacations during the year (i.e., winter break, spring break, February vacation, summer recess).

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