Talking to the Sphinx: Government benefits and its effect on child support calculation
The duty to support one’s child in NJ is undeniable, morally and legally. This obligation remains in place until the offspring is emancipated, defined as when the child has “moved beyond the sphere of influence” of his or her parents. See Filippone v. Lee, 304 N.J. Super. 301 (NJ App. Div. 1997), citing Bishop v. Bishop, 287 N.J. Super 593, 598 (NJ Ch. Div. 1995).
But families in which one or more offspring and/or even a parent has a substantial disability adds to the complexity of calculating the amount of child support due and payable. So how is child support calculated for a non-custodial parent (“NCP”) initially, or effective with Lepis upon a showing of changed circumstances, when the offspring receives government benefits?
Case law reveals several key principals. In Herd v. Herd, the court determined that state or federal benefits received by a dependent for whom the NCP pays should be subtracted from the amount of child support. Herd v. Herd, 307 N.J. Super. 501, 503 (NJ App. Div. 1998); Appendix IX-A to R. 5:6A at 2503-04 (2012). A late-breaking per curiam case – Goore v. Goore – decided by the New Jersey Appellate Division held that social security and other government-provided benefits (including benefits from state Division of Developmental Disabilities) are to be subtracted from the child support obligation. Goore v. Goore, No. A-3788-10T4, 1, 15 (N.J. App. Div. 2011).