As a general rule, child support is set in New Jersey in accordance with New Jersey Court Rule 5:6A. New Jersey Court Rule 5:6A provides, "The guidelines set forth in Appendix IX of these Rules shall be applied when an application to establish or modify child support is considered by the Court. The guidelines may be modified or disregarded by the Court only where good cause is shown." The Child Support Guidelines have been in effect since May of 1986, however, in March of 1996, The Family Practice Committee of the Supreme Court issued a report and proposed amendments to The Child Support Guidelines. The Supreme Court reviewed and adopted these amendments which dramatically alter Child Support Guidelines. The "New" Child Support Guidelines became effective September 1, 1997.

Prior to the adoption of the "New" Child Support Guidelines, the non custodial parent's support obligation was determined as follows: 1) The parent's combined weekly income was calculated; 2) The Child Support Guidelines were then used to determine the total support obligation based upon the combined weekly net income and the number of children; 3) The percentage of the total net income earned by the non custodial parent (the parent which has the child support obligation) was determined and the non custodial parent's support obligation equaled that percent of the total child support amount. (For example, if the custodial parent is earning a net weekly of $300.00 and the non custodial parent is earning a net weekly salary of $700.00, the parties have a combined net weekly income of $1,000.00. Assume the parties have one child. The Guidelines provide a total child support obligation of $200.00 per week for one child, based on total net income of $1,000.00. The non custodial's parents support obligation would equal 70% of $200.00 or $140.00 per week.)

The "Old" Guidelines did not take into consideration expenses incurred by the non custodial parents for the children during visitation or other expenses such as health insurance or day care. Additionally, The "Old" Guidelines were capped at combined weekly net income of $1,000.00. Therefore, the "Old" Guidelines could potentially result in an inequitable child support award under certain circumstances.

The "New" Guidelines are designed to provide a more comprehensive and realistic evaluation of the expenses associated with the children in each individual case. The revisions to The Child Support Guidelines are extensive and the following is a brief description of some of the revisions.

Under The "New" Child Support Guidelines, the non custodial parent is entitled to a credit for certain overnight visitation. Furthermore, if the non custodial parent has two or more overnights per week (28% of the overnights or more), the credit for visitation increases dramatically in recognition of the increased expenses to the non custodial parent associated with such visitation. The "New" Guidelines provide for adjustments by way of increase or decrease, to compensate for the payment of health insurance or work related day care expenses incurred on behalf of the children by either party. The Guidelines also recognize that parties may have other children from prior or subsequent relationships and provide for an adjustment by way of either increase or decrease based upon amounts needed to support these other children. Further, The "New" Guidelines contain a "safety net" in low income situations based upon the Poverty Guidelines so as not to place either party in a financially untenable position, and the upper range of The "New" Guidelines has been increased to a combined weekly net income of $2,900.00.

If your child support was set in accordance with The "Old" Guidelines, the level of support may differ from that due under The "New" Guidelines. However, the adoption of The "New" Guidelines is not an automatic basis for a modification of a child support order. Under the current law in New Jersey, a child support award may be reviewed, pursuant to N.J.S.A. 2A:17-56.9A every three years or in accordance with The Supreme Court case of Lepis vs. Lepis, 83 N.J. 139 (1980) upon a showing of changed circumstances. If your child support was determined under The "Old" Guidelines and it has been over three years since any modification or review, or there have been some changed circumstances warranting a modification, you may wish to further explore your rights under The "New" New Jersey Child Support Guidelines.