When you and your children's other parent end up embroiled in a child support dispute, most parents expect to have their “day in court” after motion papers have been filed. For parents who aren't married and/or have never been married, there's typically an intermediary step before a judge gets involved, a step which sometimes eliminates the need for a hearing presided over by a judge altogether. New Jersey instituted the Child Support Hearing Officer Program back in the 1980s to expedite the child support litigation process for the court system's 100,000+ (and growing) annual case load. Child support hearing officers aren't judges. They're attorneys or other qualified professionals who take testimony, review documents, evaluate evidence, and do much of the same work that a judge does during a traditional motion hearing. The major difference between judges and hearing officers? When a hearing officer establishes paternity, calculates support or modifies a pre-existing order, it's only considered a recommendation. A Superior Court-level judge must review the recommendation and sign off on it at which point the recommendation, agreed to by the parties, becomes an enforceable order. Moreover, both parties have a right to appeal the hearing officer's recommendation to a Superior Court judge who will conduct a hearing de novo (new, or from scratch), often on the same day. Here's an in-depth video explanation of the process produced by the Administrative Office of the New Jersey Courts:
Keep in mind: you have a right to be represented by counsel at child support hearings.
Do you have questions about your New Jersey child support case? Help is only a quick phone call or e-mail away. We're here to walk you through the process and achieve a best-case outcome given the facts of your case. If you have any questions regarding the determination of income for child support, or family court matters generally in New Jersey, please contact us online today or call (856) 546-1350 for a confidential consultation with one of our skilled family court lawyers.