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The period surrounding a divorce can be filled with upheaval. And when there are children involved, everything becomes more complicated.  Determinations of child custody and support have become one of the primary concerns, so understanding the tax rules surrounding these payments is helpful. Child support payments play a crucial role in ensuring children’s financial well-being following a separation or divorce. Child support payments should meet the various needs of the children involved, such as housing, food, education, and healthcare. In New Jersey, state guidelines determine the amount of child support a parent is required to pay, which considers both parents’ income, the number of children, and other relevant factors to ensure the child’s standard of living is maintained as closely as possible to what it was before the parents’ relationship ended. 

Understanding the tax implications of child support payments is essential for the payers and recipients to manage their finances effectively and comply with state laws. In New Jersey, child support payments have specific tax implications for both the parent making and receiving the payments. Here is a detailed description:

  • Non-Taxable Income for Recipient: In New Jersey, as in the rest of the United States, child support payments are non-taxable income for the parent, which means the parent who receives child support does not need to declare these payments as income on their tax returns.
  • Non-Deductible Expense for Payer: The parent making child support payments cannot deduct these from their taxable income. This federal rule applies regardless of the state in which you reside, including New Jersey.
  • Tax Deductions and Credits: Child support payments are not deductible, but the payer might still be eligible for certain tax benefits. For example, suppose the payer receives the right to claim the child as a dependent. In that case, depending on their income level and the specifics of their custody arrangement, they may be able to take advantage of tax credits such as the Child Tax Credit.
  • Shared Parenting Arrangements: Tax implications can become more complex in cases of shared custody. Generally, only one parent can claim the child as a dependent for tax purposes. This right is typically outlined in the custody agreement or decided as part of the child support order. If parents alternate years to claim the child as a dependent, their agreement should set this out.
  • Legal Fees and Related Costs: Legal fees for obtaining child support can sometimes be tax-deductible. However, this does not apply to all legal expenses related to divorce or custody disputes. Only the portion of the fees directly related to establishing, collecting, or maintaining child support may be deductible.
  • Alimony vs. Child Support: It is essential to distinguish between child and alimony payments, as they have different tax implications. Alimony, unlike child support, used to be taxable income for the recipient and a deductible expense for the payer. However, under the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017, this changed for any divorce or separation agreement executed after December 31, 2018. For those agreements, alimony payments are no longer deductible for the payer or taxable income for the recipient.
  • New Jersey State-Specific Rules: While the main tax rules surrounding child support are federally mandated, state-specific rules may also apply, particularly concerning how child support impacts state income tax or how state and federal tax laws interact. Under New Jersey laws, child support is not considered taxable income.
  • Professional Advice: Because individual situations can vary widely, and tax laws frequently change, you should consult a family law attorney and tax professional familiar with New Jersey and federal tax laws. They can provide advice tailored to your specific circumstances.

It’s essential to keep these general guidelines in mind and seek professional advice to navigate the specific details of your situation, especially since tax regulations and state laws may change over time. Bozanian McGregor LLC has experienced family law attorneys who can help you navigate child support issues and ensure that our office handles your divorce, child custody, and support issues professionally and compassionately.

About the Author
Elton’s passion has always been family, guardianship, and estate practice, and the complexities that accompany each unique, family-oriented matter.