Although child support and custody are handled in different areas of New Jersey courts, they are closely related.
When you are divorcing or separating from your co-parent, custody is typically your main priority. Custody in New Jersey is based on the best interest of your children, and your custody schedule should reflect that.
It is assumed that shared physical custody is in the best interest of the children, unless there are factors that favor one parent having more time than the other.
Yes, you may still pay child support
A common misconception is that if you have shared physical custody, you do not have to pay child support. This is not always true.
Child support in New Jersey is determined by a set of guidelines. A court examines factors including the income of each parent, childcare expenses and your custody schedule.
However, shared custody for child support purposes is based on the number of overnights a parent has with the children. In order for custody to be considered shared, each parent must have the child for a minimum of 105 nights per year.
If one parent has the child for more than 105 nights per year, that parent may receive more in child support.
Income as a child support factor
Keep in mind that your custody schedule is just one of a set of factors that the court looks at. Your co-parent could have a higher number of overnights than you do, but also have a higher income.
This could reduce your child support obligation or even relieve you from paying child support entirely.
If you do have an equal number of overnights and meet the child support court’s definition of “shared” custody, you could still end up paying child support if you have a higher income, your co-parent has more expenses or other factors warrant a child support order.
The child support guidelines are a starting point, but the ultimate child support amount you pay is based on your specific circumstances. Working with a child support attorney can help you understand how the guidelines apply to your situation.