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New Jersey ranks near the bottom for child support payments

Despite being one of the most expensive states in which to live, a study shows New Jersey ranks 47th among U.S. states in child support payments. The average monthly payment of $424 is less than half the average amount in neighboring New York ($895), and nearly a third of the amount received in Massachusetts ($1,187).

The study bases its findings using a family with two children, ages 7 and 10, and one where both parents work earning a combined $100,000 per year. The mother had 65% of parenting duties and made $45,000 per year. Researchers found that a father’s payment varies from $402 (Virginia) per month to $1,187. The national monthly average is $721.

How does child support differ depending upon the region?

On average, New England states award the most child support, and Rocky Mountain states the least:

  1. New England          $928
  2. Plains                    $825
  3. Far West                $762
  4. Southeast              $688
  5. Great Lakes            $675
  6. Southwest              $640
  7. Mideast                  $627
  8. Rocky Mountain      $556

Why does child support vary so much?

The study found that politics and cost of living are not always significant factors in state child support awards. One big factor is that many states still do not recognize the reality of working women. States should review guidelines every four years, but Mississippi, North Dakota and Texas do not include a mother’s income into child support calculations.

Some states don’t want to set payments too high, so the noncustodial parent can’t afford them. Other factors include remarriages, custodial children outside the relationship, health insurance, public assistance and alimony.

Navigating a complicated system

Many divorced parents know child custody and support awards can be extremely stressful and sometimes appear to be arbitrary. While federal guidelines exist, each state can set its own rules, and results can vary from judge to judge.

Talking to an experienced family law attorney here in New Jersey can help you focus on the best outcome for you and your children during what can be an emotional and often-adversarial process.