Child Support and The Income Shares Model in New Jersey
The income shares model was developed by the Institute for Court Management of the National Center for State Courts under the Child Support Guidelines Project of the Office of Child Support Enforcement of the United States Department of Health and Human Services. Many of our states use this model to determine child support in child custody cases.
The Income Shares model is based on the concept that the child should receive the same proportion of parental income that he or she would have received if the parents lived together. In an intact household, the income of both parents is generally pooled and spent for the benefit of all household members, including any children Thus, the income shares model calculates support as the share of each parent’s income estimated to have been allocated to the child if the parents and child were living in an intact household. This principle is consistent with the Uniform Marriage and Divorce Act, enacted in many states.
Using the Income Shares model, computation of child support is basically a four-step process:
1. The income of the parents is determined and added together.
2. A “basic child support obligation” is computed based on the combined income of the parents, using a table or grid in the guidelines. The amounts in the table are derived from economic data of household expenditures on children.
3. A “presumptive child support obligation” is then computed by adding expenditures for work related child care expenses and extraordinary medical expenses to the basic child support obligation. Other obligations may be added or deducted from the calculations.
4. The presumptive child support obligation is prorated between each parent based on his or her proportionate share of total income. The non-custodian’s obligation is payable as child support, while the custodian’s obligation is retained and presumed to be spent directly on the child.
In New Jersey, determining the amount to be paid by a parent for support of the child and the period during which the duty of support is owed, the court in those cases not governed by court rule will consider, but are not be limited to, the following factors:
- Needs of the child;
- Standard of living and economic circumstances of each parent;
- All sources of income and assets of each parent;
- Earning ability of each parent, including educational background, training, employment skills, work experience, custodial responsibility for children including the cost of providing child care and the length of time and cost of each parent to obtain training or experience for appropriate employment;
- Need and capacity of the child for education, including higher education;
- Age and health of the child and each parent;
- Income, assets and earning ability of the child;
- Responsibility of the parents for the court-ordered support of others;
- Reasonable debts and liabilities of each child and parent; and
- Any other factors the court may deem relevant.
There are both strengths and weaknesses in the Income Shares Model. First of all, the main distinguishing feature of the income shares model is that it embodies the underlying economic assumption that as income increases, the proportion of income spent on child support decreases.
Secondly, Critics have charged that the income shares model is based on faulty underlying economic research. One study has suggested that the underlying economic data failed to reflect true child related expenditures in upper income families including such non-consumer expenditures as principal on home, savings, and trusts for the benefit of children. Thus, the income shares model does not accomplish the goal of ensuring that parents, after they break up, continue to spend on their children the same percentage of income that they would have spent if they were together.
Thirdly, Another distinguishing feature of the income shares model is that it illustrates graphically that both parents are sharing in the support of the child. Where the perception of fairness is as important as fairness itself, this feature is its greatest asset. A final distinguishing feature of the income shares model is that it can more easily than the flat percentage model take into consideration adjustments for shared and split custody, health care needs, child care expenses, serial family development, and children’s ages by the manipulation of income, additions and deductions and by then allocating these costs between the parents.
Because these factors can be built into the income shares formula, there is less reason for deviation from the guideline’s presumptive award. Limiting deviation meets the ideal of perceived fairness, as well as the federal requirement that the number of cases in which deviation is granted be limited. Limited deviation also meets the goals of consistency and predictability. Given that the ultimate goal of child support guidelines is increased compliance through perceived fairness, the income shares model meets this goal.
The Income Shares Model is used in places like Bergen, Passaic, and other cities around New Jersey for determining child support. If you are facing a divorce, and you have children, contact us today and we will help you find a divorce lawyer in your area that understands family law. They will be able to answer any legal questions you may have about child support issues.