In a New Jersey divorce, parents have an obligation to support unemancipated children as they are not self-sufficient. Child support is based on ten statutory factors. But the primary factor in determining child support is the parents’ respective incomes. In some cases, however, a child may have income or assets of their own. When establishing a child support obligation for a child, New Jersey statute considers the child’s income in some circumstances.
The case law in New Jersey differentiates between minor children and children who have reached the age of majority. For minor children, the courts are reluctant to look to the children’s income or assets, except in limited circumstances. This is because the law provides that it is the parents’ responsibility to support their children, not vice versa. New Jersey law indicates that the assets of a minor may not be used for his or her own support if those who are legally responsible for them have sufficient funds to fulfill their responsibility.
In fact, New Jersey Child Support Guidelines exclude income from children when calculating child support. Further, the guidelines mandate that income from a child is only included in the child support calculation if the child is a professional or, if the child has substantial income that reduces the family’s living expenses.
As such, the law is clear that it is highly disfavored and an exception to utilize a minor child’s income in calculating their child support.
The answer is different, however, for children who have reached the age of majority and graduated high school. Majority children, still entitled to support, may not be governed by the child support guidelines. In this situation, case law and statutory factors govern.
As such, one statutory factor which must be considered when establishing child support is: the income, assets and earning ability of the child. Therefore, in determining support for a child over the age of majority who is a high school graduate, the court may properly consider the child’s own ability to earn income and as well as their assets.
With regard to college costs and contributions, courts consider as a factor the financial resources of the child. This includes assets owned or held in trust. It also includes the ability of the child to earn income during the school year or on vacation.
New Jersey public policy is abundantly clear that it is the parent’s responsibility to support their children. And, the right to support belongs to the child. However, the child’s own income and assets may be considered in certain circumstances.
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