Understanding New Jersey's child support laws for unmarried parents

Overview of Child Support Laws in New Jersey for Unmarried Parents

In New Jersey, the legal obligation to support a child is not contingent upon the marital status of the parents. Whether you were never married or are currently separated, both parents are equally responsible for the financial well-being of their children. This article provides a comprehensive understanding of New Jersey's child support laws as they pertain to unmarried parents.

Establishing Paternity

The first step in determining child support for unmarried parents in New Jersey is establishing paternity. In cases where paternity is disputed, either parent can file a Complaint to Establish Paternity. The court may order genetic testing if necessary. Once paternity is established, the father's name is added to the birth certificate, and he gains rights and responsibilities regarding the child.

Calculating Child Support

New Jersey uses an 'Income Shares Model' to calculate child support. This model takes into account the combined income of both parents and apportions responsibility based on each parent's share of that income. Several factors are considered when calculating support payments, such as:

An example can be seen in the case of 'Bisbing v. Bisbing', where the New Jersey Supreme Court considered many such factors when determining child support obligations in a custody dispute.

Custody and Parenting Time

Custody arrangements can directly impact child support calculations. New Jersey recognizes two types of custody: legal custody (decision-making power) and physical custody (where the child lives). Child support may be adjusted based on parenting time schedules, with non-custodial parents often paying more to balance the time custodial parents spend caring for the child.

Modification and Enforcement

Child support orders are not set in stone. They can be modified if there is a significant change in circumstances, such as a loss of income or a change in custody. To modify support, a parent must file a motion with the court presenting evidence of changed conditions.

Enforcement measures are available when a parent fails to pay child support. The New Jersey Child Support Program can take actions like wage garnishment, tax refund interception, and license suspension to ensure compliance.


Understanding child support laws in New Jersey is crucial for unmarried parents seeking to ensure their children's needs are met financially. It's advisable for parents to seek legal counsel to navigate these laws effectively. Professional legal assistance can help protect your rights and secure a fair outcome for all parties involved.