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If a family makes within the amount set by the child support guidelines of approximately $180,000, then the court will use the computer-based formula to determine the appropriate amount of child support. If it’s been established that a family is a high-income family, then we can go beyond the guidelines and consider the specific needs of the children. This is very important, because children’s needs vary. An infant is going to need the same amount of diapers and the same amount of formula regardless of how much money their parents have. When more money is available, a higher level of care for the children can be expected. However, we also have to realize that a parent shouldn’t be ordered to pay a tremendous amount of money simply because they have the means to.
In New Jersey, the classic example that illustrates this is a case that involved Michael Strahan who was on Good Morning America and used to play for the New York Giants. Strahan lost his custody and child support case and his wife was ordered to receive an exorbitant amount of money per month. I recall her commenting that “Michael should always see the girls in a beautiful new dress…” and I recall Strahan saying, “I really don’t mind if they are wearing the same thing as last time; I just want to spend more time with them.” The appellate court considered the factors and came up with the phrase, “No child needs two ponies,” which basically means that just because the money is there, doesn’t mean that children should not be spoiled rotten.
Divorce decrees regarding property are rarely modified. If alimony is of issue, then the parties would have to show a significant change in circumstance to justify changing the support, and that too is rare. However, it is different when it comes to children; the number one rule is what is in the best interests of the child. This is an interest that must always be served, which means if there has been a significant change in circumstances that could affect the child, then a modification can take place at any time as long as proof of that change in circumstances can be shown. Courts and the law firmly provide the children should benefit from the good fortune of their parents.
For example, if one spouse gets remarried after divorce and has a child a number of months later, then they would have a new child to support, and this would be considered a significant change in circumstances. If one parent who was providing the health insurance were to lose that insurance, then the other parent might have to go to the open market to obtain it, and this too would be considered a significant change in circumstances. If a child is found to have some type of disability that requires one parent to quit their job or hire someone to fulfill caretaking duties, then this would be considered a significant change in circumstances. There are a number of situations which could substantiate a significant change in circumstances, and in turn warrant a modification to a child support plan. With that said, it may be more difficult to obtain a modification to a plan that was very recently agreed to, as opposed to one that was agreed to years prior.
Relocation by a parent after a divorce was addressed within the last couple of years by the Supreme Court, and the standard was actually changed to what it always should have been, which is what is in the best interest of the child. There are two kinds of relocation. In theory, a parent can relocate anywhere within the state without consent, but they cannot relocate out of the state without consent. Interstate moves become a problem certainly in the Northern counties and the very Southern counties of the state where people live right next to an adjoining state. Our office practices primarily in Bergen and Hudson Counties, which both touch New York State. Oftentimes, people who have just divorced will want to move to New York City or Rockland County with their children, but they won’t be allowed to since that is technically outside the state of New Jersey, despite it being only minutes away.
The court will consider how an out-of-state relocation may affect the child. If a parent is moving from a small apartment in a very urban area with average schools to a bigger house where the child will have their own bedroom, access to a great school system, and the freedom to engage in many more activities, then this would provide a real benefit to the child. The court will also look at what steps are going to be put in place to accommodate the non-moving parent.
Relocating—whether inside or outside of the state—constitutes a significant change in circumstances. While a parent is allowed to make the move, the other parent can certainly go to court and say there has been a significant change in circumstances that warrants modification to the custody and/or parenting time agreement. Ultimately, this could result in a complete change of custody if the court rules that the child’s best interests are served to be with the non-moving parent. Simply because a parent is allowed to move anywhere in the state without permission, doesn’t mean that they are going to be able to do so if the other parent raises an objection.
These cases tend to be contentious because parents are usually moving far away and there are sometimes new spouses and other children involved. The children may have to change schools and move away from their friends, which is difficult for courts to justify. These changes can alter the entire dynamic of a parenting time plan. For example, one parent may go from having mid-week visits to having an extra weekend day, or they might have to make it up with an extra week or two during the summer. Such changes dovetail into the process of changing the child support agreement. When one parent wants to relocate, a real domino effect is set in motion.
For more information on Calculating Child Support In New Jersey, an initial consultation is your next best step. Get the information and legal answers you are seeking by calling (855) 208-3650 today.