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How is child support established here in New Jersey?

This is often one of the first questions that New Jersey parents ask when the relationship between a child's parents ends, regardless of whether they were married. Understanding how support is calculated prior to beginning any negotiations regarding custody could be helpful. This is because child support is a crucial part of any agreement of the parties regarding custody, especially since the amount of time each parent spends with the child affects the amount ordered to be paid.

In addition to parenting time, the court will also look at each party's gross monthly income. In addition to these two criteria, the court may also consider any special needs of the child, such as educational or medical assistance. Once those issues are explored, extraordinary expenses concerning the child are then taken into consideration.

As for how parenting time factors into the equation, it would be helpful for you to understand the difference between legal and physical custody. As the name implies, physical custody describes the amount of time the child lives with each parent. Legal custody has to do with making decisions regarding the child's education, medical needs and other major life choices that could affect the child's future. These days, most courts favor an award of joint legal custody, which leaves the issue of physical custody to be determined.

Barring any circumstances, such as abuse, most New Jersey courts and attorneys recommend that parents work out their own visitation schedule. This way, parents are able to construct a parenting plan that works best for everyone involved. Parents are able to focus more on giving the child as much access to each parent as possible, which could be different than the decision the court would make since its criteria is focused more on the best interests of the child.

As long as the parenting schedule does not violate that tenet, the court will most likely approve the plan upon which you and the other parent agree. As for child support, parents can also suggest what they consider a fair amount to the court. The amount should at least reflect the requirements of the state statutes, but can address extraordinary issues as needed. If you should have any additional questions regarding how child support is calculated -- or how parenting time affects it -- the best first step is to contact a family law attorney.

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