Do You have to Pay Child Support in a NJ Domestic Violence Case?
In the Garden State, parents have a legal duty to financially support their child. It does not matter if one of the parents does not have a relationship with the child, nor does it matter if the parent has never seen or spoken to the child, he or she will be legally responsible for economic support. Moreover, in the context of a domestic violence case, if a parent is removed from a home and parenting time is suspended, the parent still has to support their child. The courts in NJ view children as innocent bystanders and therefore, will do everything in their power to protect their interests.
Arriving at the Child Support Amount
To begin, let’s first discuss how child support is determined in New Jersey. To determine the appropriate amount of child support, the Family Court uses guidelines to help calculate the fitting amount of money a child should receive. It’s important to note, child support is not income. The purpose of child support is to support the child, meaning, to pay for the child’s needs such as food, clothing, housing, health care, transportation, and entertainment. It is not supplemental income for the custodial parent. It is also important to keep in mind, the child support guidelines are estimates, they are not exact figures. Every child is unique, and every family is different. Plus, expenses change over time and incomes increase and decrease as a child grows. Thus, there are so many variables to consider and accordingly, it is nearly impossible for the Court to make a perfect determination. However, the guidelines are there to help the Judge make a fair, equitable, and reasonable assessment of how much support the child or children should receive.
The underlying goal of the child support guidelines is to place the child in a similar financial situation he or she would have been if the family remained intact. The guidelines combine the gross income of both parents to determine the total combined income of the household. Next, the Court will begin making deductions for specific items such as taxes, retirement, other support orders, and any extra expense that must be taken out of a person’s salary. Then, the Court will determine how many overnights each parent will have in order to provide a credit for when a child is physically present with a parent. The reason for the credit is to avoid double payment. If the child is under the care, custody and control of a parent, he or she should be spending money on the child. As a result, he or she should not have to pay additional support. Thus, if the child or children are staying overnight with a particular parent, then the support order will be reduced accordingly. Also, the judge may award credit for daycare, aftercare, and healthcare expenses. After considering the combined income together with making the appropriate deductions and awarding the applicable credits, the Judge will issue a weekly child support payment.
How does a Restraining Order Impact Child Support in New Jersey?
Child support is handled differently in the context of a restraining order. To start, issues surrounding restraining orders are primarily governed by The Prevention of Domestic Violence Act, which is codified under N.J.S.A. 2C:25-17. Under the Act, victims have access to an array of protections and relief. The most crucial and principal form of protection is a restraining order, wherein the offender is forbidden from contacting the victim in any manner. Further, if the parties reside together, the offender must leave the home and cannot return until the matter is resolved. Even if the defendant owns the residence and has nowhere else to seek shelter, the alleged perpetrator must leave. The Act prohibits in-house restraining orders.
Additionally, in order to encourage victims to seek help and avoid a chilling effect, the law authorizes the Family Court to enter both temporary and long-term support orders. New Jersey acknowledges that many victims fear coming forward because they are financially reliant upon their abuser. Many people believe if they file for a protective order, the defendant will stop paying child support and other necessary expenses. Nevertheless, the Court is vested with the power to enter support orders in order to maintain the status quo. Therefore, victims will not be penalized or placed in difficult situations if they seek help. To that end, the Family Court Judge can award the plaintiff money for lost wages, out-of-pocket expenses for any injuries, property damage, moving expenses, and compensation for any pain and suffering. Similarly, the Court can order the abuser to make mortgage payments, housing expenses, rent, car payments, and health insurance costs. Furthermore, the Judge can compel the defendant to pay the plaintiff’s attorney’s fees and costs for counseling and therapy.
Lastly, in accordance with the guidelines discussed above, the Family Court can enter a child support order against the defendant. However, this is where inflated or insufficient orders get entered. Unlike other costs and expenses, there is no receipt or paperwork for child support. For instance, to determine a mortgage payment, the Judge can simply review the mortgage statement. However, for child support, no such document exists. Also, please keep in mind, a typical child support order is not entered swiftly. In most family and matrimonial matters, both parents submit their pay stubs, taxes, and any other relevant financial documents to the Judge. Most parties want to give the Court as much information as possible so the Judge can accurately determine their income compared to their expenses, so the corresponding child support order is manageable. Also, in some cases, the litigates will have a full hearing to determine the facts of the case.
However, in the context of domestic violence and restraining orders, there is no time for the Judge to review and thoroughly analyze the finances of each party. If a victim contacts the police or notifies the Court that he or she needs protection, the Courts will quickly enter a temporary order of protection to ensure the victim is safe from harm. Along the way, the Court will enter a temporary support order. But again, the Judge will not be reviewing each parties’ finances and expenses and consequently, the order may not be accurate.
What to do with Child Support & Domestic Violence Concerns in NJ
Accordingly, if you are seeking to file for an order of protection or are defending against one, it is vital to be prepared in more ways than one. It may not seem important or necessary at the time, but your finances can play an important role in your case. As such, when proceeding to Court, you should have a copy of your pay stubs, taxes, and any other pertinent financial documents for the Court to review. Ultimately, it is even better to have the support of an attorney who can help you prepare and aggressively argue your case before the presiding judge. With that in mind, you can receive individualized guidance and legal counsel from our seasoned New Jersey domestic violence lawyers by contacting our office at (908)-336-5008 for a cost-free, confidential consultation. We assist clients with all aspects of abuse matters in courts throughout the state, including those in Paterson, Jersey City, New Brunswick, Elizabeth, Somerville, Hackensack, and Morristown. If you would like to discuss your questions and concerns regarding child support and any type of restraining order issue, rest-assured that we can help.