What Happens to a Parent’s New Jersey Child Support Obligation When the Minor Child Moves in With Him/Her?

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There are many reasons a child might go from living with one parent to living with the other. That change might be the decision of the parents or, in the case of an older child, the parents might allow that mature older child to have a voice in the choice. That child’s relocation may impact a lot of things, including child support. If your teenage child goes from living with your ex-spouse to living with you, then the law says that, generally, you are entitled to a change in child support.

It may mean that, going forward, neither parent pays. Alternately, it may mean that you go from paying your ex-spouse to receiving payments from your ex-spouse. Either way, a modification is often in order. Getting that change is not automatic when your child moves in with you, though. You have to go through a specific legal process to get your child support modified, so you should  have an experienced New Jersey family law attorney representing you and guiding you through the process.

To get an idea how this works, we can look at a recent court case involving a Hunterdon County family. The facts went like this: mother and father married in 1993, had a son in 2001 and divorced in 2003. At the time of the divorce, both parents agreed that the son would live with the mother and that the father would have visitation one night per week and every other weekend. The father also agreed to pay child support.

In the fall of 2017, the son moved in with the father on a “trial” basis. By January, the father, believing the move was permanent, asked to terminate child support. The mother refused so the two parents headed to court.

Keep in mind that at that moment, the mother remained, in the law’s eyes, the primary residential parent. The father remained legally obligated to pay the full child support amount just as if the son still lived with his mother. Legal action was very necessary so that the father could obtain a court order that matched the current living arrangements and have child support reflect that life change, as well.

The trial judge ordered that the father be designated the primary residential parent and that his child support obligation be terminated. In this situation, the parents’ relative incomes were such that the mother did not owe an obligation of support after the son moved in with the father. (However, in some cases, a move like this might trigger a change where a parent goes from paying support to receiving it.)

Temporary moves versus permanent ones — and how they impact child support

Another thing to keep in mind is the difference between a temporary move versus a permanent one. If your child moves in with you temporarily, that probably won’t trigger a change in your child support obligation, where a permanent move is different. In this Hunterdon County family’s case, the Appellate Division court explained that, while the son’s move may have begun as a temporary one, once he remained with the father for several months with no intention of returning to the mother’s home, then “the arrangements ceased to be temporary, but instead became the current custody agreement between the parties.” Once that happened, the father was entitled to go to court and get a custody and child support modification.

A change in your child’s living arrangements (from living with the other parent to living with you) carries with it many legal impacts. One of the big ones is that your ability to provide fully for this new member of your household may be greatly impaired if you’re still under a legal obligation to make a weekly or monthly payment to that child’s other parent with whom the child no longer lives. To fix that, you may need to go to court.

For legal advice and representation upon which you can rely, count on the skill and experience of New Jersey family law attorney Frank Marciano. Whether yours is a child support issue, child custody issue, visitation issue or some other family law matter, Attorney Marciano and his team are ready to help. To set up a consultation, contact the office online or call 201.656.1000.