5 Steps For Calculating New Jersey Child Support For Children In College

In New Jersey, divorcing parents have an obligation to financially support their children until emancipation, that is, when the child completes a continuous four-year undergraduate education up until when the child reaches 23 years of age.

Divorcing parents also have a separate, though related, obligation in New Jersey to contribute to the cost of college for their children.

When parents elect to have a court determine their respective child support obligations for children attending college, the court generally calculates child support as follows:

When the child lives at home and commutes to college full time, the amount of child support is generally (not always) calculated under the New Jersey Child Support Guidelines, to which attorneys and courts have access.

When the child attends college full-time away from home, the amount of child-support is generally determined on a case-by-case basis after consideration of a variety of statutory factors.

In light of the obvious costs (both financial and emotional) and inherent uncertainty of a court decision for your children’s financial support, many parents choose to determine an appropriate amount of child support and contribution to college costs by agreement out of court. 

Before negotiating with the other parent, however, it’s important to first be sufficiently prepared by taking these 5 actions.

  1. Get clear on what you want as the final outcome. For instance, recognizing that the obligations of child support and college contribution are related, identify if you’ll need more child support to pay the current monthly expenses for your children or more college contribution from the other parent. 

For example, you might need the other parent to contribute more for college costs if your child is working and able to contribute to his or her own monthly expenses and no funds have been set aside for college such as 529 plans. 

  1. Calculate the total current monthly non-college related expenses for your children. For instance, you might prepare a spreadsheet listing the amount of monthly expense for items such as medical insurance, clothing, food, toiletries, automobile expenses including insurance, home and household Supplies, haircuts, spending money, health insurance co-pays, and food and other expenses for the child’s on-campus residence.  Do not include monthly expenses that are part of college costs.  For example, food while your child is away at school is typically included as “room and board” college costs. 
  1. Have your lawyer calculate child support under the New Jersey Child Support Guidelines. Generally, the child support guidelines are intended to apply only to children who are less than 18 years old or otherwise still in high school or a similar secondary educational institution.  Nevertheless, calculating the support amount for an older child can help gauge an approximate amount of appropriate child support and importantly, identify each parent’s percentage share of combined parental income.
  1. Determine an appropriate amount per month that each parent would contribute to the child’s non-college related expenses.   First, determine whether and to what extent your child is able to contribute to his or own monthly expenses. For the remaining expenses, you might apportion each parent’s obligation based on his or her share of combined parental income.  For example, if you earn 40% of the combined parental income and your spouse earns 60%, appropriate child support from your spouse might be 60% of the total expenses incurred for your children each month.
  1. If you are the custodial parent, ask your lawyer about adding housing-relating costs to monthly child support. The New Jersey Child Support Guidelines generally assume that 38% of spending by the custodial parent is attributable to the “fixed costs” of housing-related expenses (as long as these are not already included as monthly child expenses).  These housing-related costs are incurred even when the child is not residing with the parent, such as when away at college.

Please contact us to receive free information about child support in New Jersey and other topics on divorce or to receive a customized strategy designed for you and your children.


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