Do You Have to Pay Child Support If You Are Separated?

Photo of child

The breakdown of a marriage is, understandably, an emotional process. Often, spouses going through this breakdown will formalize it with a divorce. But in some cases – such as when the spouses prefer to take their time deciding how to end their marriage, or there are financial or other benefits for remaining married, some spouses decide to separate. Even though still legally married, a non-custodial parent should be prepared to financially support his or her children.

Separation in New Jersey in New York

Some states have adopted statutes that explicitly adopt a status of legal separation. Neither New Jersey nor New York recognizes a legal separation in this way, though New Jersey comes close with a rarely-used procedure known as Divorce from Bed and Board.

In a typical NY or NJ marital separation, the parties agree to live apart and then formalize the terms in an agreement. They can divide property, make arrangements for spousal support, and even agree to child support, in a separation agreement. The separation agreement does not need to be filed in court, but like any other contract it will be binding on the parties and enforceable in court in the event of a breach.

Child support obligation

Parents in NJ and NY are under an obligation to support their children until they reach statutory age. In NJ, this means until the child is either 18 and out of school or is emancipated. In NY, a parent must pay child support until the child is 21 or self-supporting.

If a parent is living apart from his or her child during the time the child is entitled to support, he or she may be required to pay child support. This may happen when the parents are formally or informally separated, or even when the child is living with another family member.

If the parents have not agreed to the terms of child support in a separation agreement, the parent or guardian may file a petition to have a child support order entered by a court. When child support is ordered by the court, it will follow the state guidelines which set minimum obligations based on standard criteria.

Understand you child support obligations in NJ

It is important to understand what you are getting into when entering a separation agreement in NY or NJ. In many cases, separated couples eventually go on to divorce and when that happens, the separation agreement may be entered by the court as part of its decree. The potentially long-reaching implications of a separation agreement and its terms concerning child support means the process should be taken very seriously, with the guidance of skilled divorce attorney.

If you are considering a marital separation discuss your concerns with the NY & NJ divorce lawyers at Kantrowitz, Goldhamer & Graifman, P.C. We are dedicated to serving families in Bergen County, NJ and Rockland County, NY. Call today to schedule a consultation with one of our attorneys.

Additional child support resources:

  1. New York State Unified Court System, Family Court Child and/or Spousal Support Frequently Asked Questions, https://www.nycourts.gov/courts/nyc/family/faqs_support.shtml
  2. New Jersey Department of Human Services, Child Support Frequently Asked Questions, http://www.njchildsupport.org/Frequent-Questions/FAQs-Folder/Eligibility/Does-my-support-order-automatically-end-when-my-ch