Impact of Alimony on Child Support

Divorce Lawyer Serving Bergen County and Beyond

It is a well-settled principle of New Jersey law that parents have an affirmative obligation to provide support for their minor children. However, the amount of child support that either parent may have to pay following a divorce is based on several factors, and one of those factors is alimony. If you have questions about how alimony obligations may affect child support, Bergen County alimony attorney Brian D. Iton can assist you. He has over two decades of experience representing residents of Hackensack, Passaic, Newark, Jersey City, and other communities throughout Bergen, Hudson, Passaic, and Essex Counties.

How Can Alimony Affect Child Support?

As stated above, New Jersey recognizes the right of children of divorced parents to be supported by both parents. At the most basic level, this means that parents are jointly obligated to provide their children with food, clothing, a safe place to live, medical care, transportation, and other items. Of course, a parent’s obligations do not end there, but financially that is considered the minimum. Costs for additional child-related expenses may also be considered as part of the calculation, particularly if the children have any special needs.

The courts in New Jersey do not compute a child’s financial needs based on objective minimal requirements for these necessities, but instead on the parents’ income. This is founded on the idea that the children should be provided with support at a level to which they have become accustomed. Consequently, the amount of child support will be less for lower-income parents, and more for wealthier parents, so that the children will be able to live at more or less the same level of comfort after a divorce as before it.

As a practical matter, and in simple terms, this means that the court will compute child support by starting with the total combined income of the parents. From this number, they then determine the approximate amount that the parents would contribute to support their children if the marriage remained intact, and finally they divide this resulting amount proportionally between the parents.

So how does alimony play into this scheme? The child support calculation—which follows specific guidelines set out by New Jersey law—is based upon the adjusted income of the parents. However, the adjusted income figure incorporates not only the earnings of either parent but also a consideration of any pre-existing alimony or child support obligation that either parent must pay to a third party, any new alimony obligation imposed by the divorce, and any alimony received by either one of the parents. Therefore, if one parent is already paying child support or alimony, or will be paying alimony, the court will deduct that amount from the income figure of that parent. And, if one parent will be receiving alimony from the other, that amount will be added to any other income to arrive at that parent’s adjusted income figure.

To explain this idea in a theoretical case, if an ex-husband earns $80,000 but is paying a former ex-wife $20,000 in alimony and child support, the court will adjust his income down to $60,000. If he is further obligated to pay his new ex-wife $10,000 in alimony per year, his total adjusted income available for child support is now calculated as $50,000. Furthermore, if the new ex-wife earns $40,000, her income will be adjusted up to $50,000 to account for the $10,000 in alimony that she will receive. In the court’s view, then, the total income available for child support is $100,000—that is, $50,000 from each parent. And since their income is the same, each parent will bear 50% of that obligation, even though the husband technically earns twice as much as his new ex-spouse. (Who pays whom, however, will depend upon child custody arrangements.)

Discuss Your Alimony Matter with a Bergen County Attorney

While a theoretical case is easy to explain, your own situation may be more or less complicated. If you need help understanding New Jersey’s complex child support and alimony laws, or if you need legal advice or representation regarding alimony and child support, contact Bergen County alimony lawyer Brian D. Iton for a free consultation. Call us at (201) 731-3086 or toll-free at (844) 431-3380, or use the online form on this website to set up an appointment with a divorce attorney.