In New Jersey, child support is calculated using the New Jersey Child Support Guidelines. These guidelines are a formula that takes into account a number of factors. Unless both parties agree not to use the guidelines, they will be used in almost every single case unless it is a high income case or you can show good cause not to use them. While there are a number of factors that go into the guidelines, the primary figures include the gross income of both parties, alimony paid or received by both parties, union dues and mandatory pension payments by either party, parenting time and health care costs for the child.
These figures along with others are all put into the program. The computer will then calculate the weekly child support obligation. However, the program just doesn’t spit out a number, it includes the entire worksheet so that you can see how exactly the program arrived at the number. In my experience, most people do not have this worksheet and once I review same, I can see how the number was miscalculated due to a number of errors. Since most child support obligations cannot be retroactively modified (except for emancipation cases), it is important to get the child support done the right way the first time. One wrong move and you could wind up paying $50 extra per week or $2,600 per year. As you can see, simple mistakes really add up!
The guidelines worksheet is also helpful for determining when and if your child support should be modified. Your lawyer can review your old worksheet with you to determine if any of the numbers have changed significantly and if so, how it would impact your obligation now.