The short answer is yes, but you cannot reduce your support without a Court Order, or the confirmed agreement of your ex.
The burden of child support payments can weigh heavy on many litigants as the obligation to make payments in a consistent manner can prove extremely burdensome. This is especially true if the income stream that was utilized to arrive at this payment amount is no longer available to you or has been decreased in some fashion. This is not uncommon, especially in today’s day and age, as employment is no longer as steady and reliable as it once was in the past. In addition, physical impairment resulting in disability is also a reason that income decreases. The question that arises is whether or not a payor can modify, even on a temporary basis, his or her child support obligation based on an involuntary change in their employment status, not only as a result of being demoted or fired, but also as a result of being placed on disability?
The Lepis Court provided the procedure for modification of support orders. First, the moving party bears the burden of showing that there are permanent and substantial changed circumstances. Lepis v. Lepis 83 N.J. 139 (1980).
A change in your income as a result of a change in your employment status certainly can be perceived as a change in circumstance. It would make sense that you can no longer meet your obligation as a supporting spouse since that obligation was determined by utilizing an income that, for whatever reason, is no longer available to you. Historically the court has been reluctant to modify child support payments based on temporary unemployment.
However, if the court finds that a party has incurred a work-related injury that would prevent him or her from working, the court can and will, in certain appropriate cases, find that a party has demonstrated permanent and substantial changed circumstances warranting the court to modify that party’s child support obligation. The extent of the modification will vary, and depending on the nature of the party’s injury (whether it is temporary or permanent), the court may permit the party to pay a decreased amount in child support on a temporary basis with arrears accruing, and then revisit the issue in two or three months to assess the status of the injury. This allows a party to make realistic payments at a lowered amount while they are disabled until they can get back on their feet and working again.
In summation, if an injury prevents you from working and earning your normal stream of income, while a court may not modify your obligation on a permanent basis, if your application is properly filed, you have a good chance of receiving temporary relief that will allow you to weather the storm of your injury through lower payments until your healthy enough to start earning at your full capacity again.
Contact the New Jersey Child Custody Lawyers at Lyons & Associates
Please contact us online or call our office at 908-575-9777 to schedule an appointment to ensure that your application is properly formulated.