I recently handled a child support case where everything turned on the language that was in the settlement agreement. When it comes to the kids, and when you are getting divorced and putting together a settlement agreement, child support typically is one of the easier things to deal with. That is because it is likely your child support is going to be calculated pursuant to the New Jersey Child Support guidelines.
When we calculate child support, the guidelines will take into account each party's income, any deductions that are allowed under the law, and may include any allowed extra expenses, such as work-related childcare and health insurance premiums. Then, the program will ask for the number of overnights each parent has with the children. At the end, a child support number will be generated that will be the number paid in the vast majority of cases. However, things do not end there as several things are not covered by a child support payment. For example, unreimbursed healthcare expenses, childcare expenses that are not included in the child support calculation, summer camp and expensive extracurricular activities will be things the parents will have to deal with above and beyond child support.
When it comes to these expenses, some people divide them equally. Other people will divide them proportionate to income. My advice in this blog is to be very careful how you divide these child-related expenses and what you put in your settlement agreement because you are likely going to live with itt. For example, if you put in your agreement that these expenses will be split equally, yet your spouse makes twice as much as you do, do not expect to come back a year or two from now say, "I should only have to pay a third, or 25%.” You agreed to that and you specially agreed to it at the time you were making significantly less.
I really want you to be careful when you put things into an agreement. You might tell yourself that splitting everything equally is fair because these are my kids too. While child support is always subject to modification when either the payor or the payee sustains a permanent change in circumstances, agreements about other child-related expenses may not be changed by the court if you agreed to the fixed split. The way to protect yourself is to agree to an initial allocation of these expenses and specifically indicate that the allocation is subject to modification if a court, or the parties through consent, find a sufficient change in circumstances in the future.
The moral of the story is that agreements are contracts and words have consequences. You can agree to whatever you want to agree to, but beware that the court may hold you to your agreement as to the allocation of child-related expenses if you do not allow for a modification in your agreement.
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