It is not uncommon for financial circumstances to change following a divorce, and there are divorced people on both ends of the spectrum who are seeking modifications – paying spouses who can no longer afford their support payments and nonpaying spouses in need of additional support.
New Jersey divorce law does make it possible for changes to be made to original support or custody orders, including both child support and spousal support.
Child Support Modification
When it comes to child support modification, there is a legal standard that must be met to prove one parent is experiencing “changed circumstances.” These changes must be (1) unanticipated, (2) substantial, and (3) permanent.
If one parent is seeking to modify a child support order, that parent has the burden of proving to the court that they meet the legal definition of “changed circumstances.” If they are successful in doing so, then the modification request can proceed. The next step is for the other parent to provide the court with current financial information, which the judge will review and issue a ruling based on the child’s needs and each parent’s economic circumstances, including income, assets, debts and liabilities, and earning ability, among other factors.
There are some common situations that demonstrate changed circumstances, including:
An increase or decrease in the income of either parent.
An increase or decrease in cost of living.
The payee remarries or begins living with another adult.
The payee becomes employed or gets a substantial raise in pay.
A parent or the child suffers a serious illness or disability.
Alimony Support Modification
If one ex-spouse experiences a job loss, remarries or cohabitates with another adult, retires, or takes a new job with a substantial increase in salary, there may be a justification for modifying alimony. The court will look carefully at the needs of the person receiving alimony and their ability to meet their own needs as well as the ability of the person paying alimony to meet their obligation. As with child support, the person making the modification request must prove changed circumstances, and those circumstances cannot be temporary or small.
For those who are currently unable to meet their child or spousal support obligations, it is vitally important to take steps right away to have their support order changed. Any support payments that are missed – called “arrears” – cannot be discharged by the court retroactively. Support payments are also not dischargeable if you file bankruptcy.
It is also important to follow the proper procedures to avoid facing a contempt order for violating the terms of the original court order. Too often we see people who get into trouble because they thought they had an agreement worked out with an ex-spouse, only to find themselves facing charges of non-payment and contempt of court.
Your New Jersey divorce attorney is the best resource for providing you with the information you need to proceed with a proper modification of support request. He or she will be able to guide you through the necessary steps for filing your modification of support request with the court, so it is formalized and a matter of record.
At Cistaro Law, we are not only concerned with your divorce today, but also with your quality of life long after your case is over. Your family law issues deserve to be managed with dignity and respect. You can prepare to civilly resolve your divorce, heal, and move on with your life with a legal team that has helped individuals all over New Jersey to heal and prosper. Contact us today for your free consultation.