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Some facts about child support

New Jersey child support cases can be complicated, confusing and contentious. However, when both parties have a clear understanding of the child support system, misunderstandings can often be avoided.

Before a child support order can be issued, paternity must be established. There are a variety of ways for this to happen. If a couple is married at the time a child is conceived, there is a presumption that the husband is the father. Paternity can also be voluntarily acknowledged. In cases involving unwed mothers, paternity can be established by the court ordering a DNA test. Either parent can petition the court to establish paternity. Both parents have the financial obligation of supporting their child. This obligation continues until the child legally becomes an adult either through age or emancipation.

To determine the amount of child support to order, the court uses state guidelines that take into account a variety of factors, including the income of both parents. In some cases, the court can deviate from the formula, such as when there are extraordinary expenses. Parents who are eligible to receive child support payments can often ask for assistance through their local child support enforcement office. This agency can keep a record of child support payments. It can also take additional steps to enforce the court order. Child support orders can be modified when circumstances change, but the parent who wants the change has the duty to go to court and request it.

As the penalties for a failure to pay support can be severe, a parent who will likely be ordered to pay it may want legal assistance in negotiating an amount with the other parent. This can in some cases avoid having to pay a higher amount ordered by the court that is based upon the state guidelines.

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