Q: Is there a formula to determine child support in NJ when the children are living at college for part of the year?
I currently collect child support for 2 children aged 17 & 20. Both plan to attend college in the fall and live on campus. I've been divorced from their father for 12 years. For the first 6 years I had a court order which a received mostly alimony and child support. When the alimony was up, we did not go back to court, we used a calculator online and agreed on a number. He has been paying approximately $365 a week for the past 6 years. Now the children are in college - we are splitting college tuition and expenses. So how does the child support get modified? I am the custodial parent and he has had zero parenting time for the past several years. Do I need to get a lawyer and go back to court or is there a formula to use were we can figure it out ourselves?
A: Thank you for your question. Situations like yours can be confusing. There is not a specific formula when children are residents at college. We use what is called the Jacoby analysis. It is named after a case involving this issue. It is based on actual costs and expenses for the child in question.
The best way to go about having this analysis done is to hire experienced legal counsel. In any event, the amount of support being paid should be reflected in a Court Order to protect both parties. Your first step is to seek consultation with a family law attorney and get advice specific to your situation, then you can decide how you want to proceed.
A: The child support guidelines apply up through a child's graduation from high school. But if a child goes on to college or to a trade school after graduation from high school, a parent can still be obligated to pay direct child support or contribute to the cost of the child higher education costs or contribute to the higher education costs and continue to pay direct child support. The starting point in this analysis is whether the child[ren] are living home and going to school or if the child[ren] are living away from home while attending college / trade school. The next question is how much is the other parent paying towards the cost of the child[ren]s higher education costs and what impact does that payment have on his income / asset setting. Hypothetically, if a child was attending a local community college at a total cost of 3,500 per year and living home and dad was paying 2,000 of that 3,500 total and making 125,000 per year, he can afford to continue to pay direct child support in addition to the 2,000 per annum payment. But assuming dad earns 75,000 per year and the child is living away from home attending a college costing 45,000 per year and dad is paying 35,000 per year of that expense, presumably, he will say that he cannot / should not be paying direct child support while the child is away at college ( 9 months of the year) and then the focus will be on whether he should pay any direct child support while the child is home, given the payment of 35,000 per year for college costs while earning 75,000 per year. The point is that there are a million different scenario's and there is no set formula applicable to every family. This where you and he need to sit down to look at the total expenses of the children's college costs, who is paying what percentage of both, how much of the time will they be home, your respective income settings ( and whether any money was set aside to use towards the college costs), how much ( if anything) each child should contribute to his / her expenses, and then decide whether the other parent should also pay a direct child support amount to you. This would also be a perfect setting for you and your ex to consider hiring a family law mediator to work with both of you on trying to resolve this issue without a war or a courtroom battle ( which presumably neither of you want to spend money on). If you and your ex would like to schedule a consultation with one of the lawyers in Diamond & Diamond to discuss mediation as an option to resolve this matter, please call Angela at 973-379-9292 ( Millburn office) or call 609-248-9595 (our Ocean County office) to arrange it.
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