A parent’s actual income is not used as the basis for determining child support in New Jersey. Instead, the court will look at the parent’s maximum earning potential. To do this it will impute income to that parent. Thus, while a court cannot force someone to get a full time job, it can at least use such numbers to calculate child support.
The easiest scenario to handle this is when a party is working part time. In that case, the court will simply calculate what the parent would make if they worked a 40 hour work week. The more difficult scenario is when the parent is working at a job that does not make full use of their skills, training and experience. A lot will depend on why the parent is not working to their potential. There is a big difference between changing careers before a child support obligation is set and doing it afterward. If you change careers after the child support obligation is set, it will appear as if you were attempting to reduce your child support by getting a lower paying job. Thus, you will have an uphill battle to prove that you should not be imputed to a higher income.
There are, of course, a whole host of issues that deal with an imputation of income and each case will rise and fall on its own set of facts. Some cases are easier in that statistics from various websites can be used to determine the average income for each career. Other cases may require a vocational assessment to determine how much the parent is capable of earning given their skill set, experience and education.