Q. I am in the process of filing for divorce and we have two minor children. I get sole custody. I earn more money than my husband. Does this mean I won’t get child support or alimony?
A. There is a lot to consider here.
Custody and parenting issues are separate from maintenance obligations in the event of a divorce.
It’s unusual for a New Jersey court to award sole custody to a parent because both parents have the legal right to participate in important decisions on behalf of the child or children, Jeralyn Lawrence, family law attorney at Lawrence Law, said in Watchung.
“Unless the child is being abused or neglected, or there is a condition that renders one parent unable to participate in those decisions — such as addiction to illegal substances and the like — a court will award the parties joint custody, giving both parents a say in decisions.” can be involved that impacts the health, safety, education and welfare of the child or children,” Lawrence said.
She said New Jersey courts seek to give parents equal opportunity to spend time with children born of marriage, assuming an equal parenting schedule is in the best interests of the children involved.
That’s why sole custody is extremely rare, she said.
Parents of divorce are free to agree on a parental leave schedule that works best for their specific circumstances, she said, noting that there is no one-size-fits-all parental leave schedule. She said divorcing parents should be encouraged to communicate, collaborate and compromise to agree on a schedule that works best for their family.
“Flexibility and communication between parents is key to achieving this goal,” she said. “Hiring an attorney with expertise and experience in divorce and family law will help you find a fair and reasonable resolution to these issues, including those related to your divorce.”
Now for the money.
Alimony and child support are treated as two separate considerations under New Jersey law, Lawrence said.
“Depending on the facts and circumstances of a particular case, a parent may be required to pay child support for the benefit of the child or children,” she said. “It’s possible that a recipient of child support will also pay child support because child support is considered the right of the child and not the parent.”
New Jersey courts use the Child Support Guidelines to determine an appropriate child support obligation, she said.
The guidelines take into account numerous factors, including but not limited to your individual income, but also the parenting schedule, child support paid or received, and the cost of health insurance for the child,” Lawrence said. “With a joint parental leave schedule, it’s likely that the higher-earning spouse has a support obligation to the other.”
Unlike child support, which is determined by the guidelines, alimony is determined by weighing several factors, Lawrence said.
“To determine an appropriate alimony payment, our courts consider the income of the parties, taking into account, among other things, the amount of property, debt, and work and educational history of the parties,” she said. “In general, the higher-income spouse will be subject to alimony, subject to consideration of the foregoing factors.”
You should speak to an experienced family law attorney who can look at your specific situation.
Email your questions to Ask@NJMoneyHelp.com.
Karin Price Mueller writes the Bamboozled column for NJ Advance Media and is the founder of NJMoneyHelp.com. Follow NJMoneyHelp on Twitter @NJMoneyHelp. Find NJMoneyHelp on Facebook. Sign up for NJMoneyHelp.com’s weekly e-newsletter.