It happens all the time. As part of a divorce, the court will examine the incomes of you and your spouse, determine whether child support should be paid, and enter an order specifying an amount…then the situation will change significantly. You or your ex might become unemployed or start making substantially more (or less) money. The financial needs of your child may change. The child support order is legally enforceable, but it’s not set in stone. Under the right circumstances, either party can successfully petition the court for a modification of the original order.
The New Jersey Standard for Modification
Under New Jersey law, a parent may only file a motion to amend an existing child support order when there have been “changed circumstances.” A trivial or minor change will not suffice—controlling law requires that the change be “permanent, substantial and unanticipated.” For that reason, if you are paying child support and lose your job, it’s unlikely the court will change your obligation right away, unless you can show that you are no longer employable, or that you have little or no prospect of earning anything close to what you were earning. Any support payments that you are unable to make while unemployed will remain due and will become an arrearage, to be repaid once you get back to work. If, however, some one remains unemployed for a very long time through no fault of their own, then a Court may have sympathy and reduce support.
The burden, in any proceeding to amend a child support order, falls on the party requesting the change. In most instances, the court will make a determination whether the change warrants consideration before requiring that the other party file any type of response. If the court concludes that there were sufficiently changed circumstances, both parties must provide financial information to the court. In general, child support will be determined by using the math formulas within the child support guidelines. (Click here for our free app and pocket child support calculator to get estimated numbers.) Sometimes, however, a court will find that the guidelines do not apply. The court will then issue a ruling, based on a range of factors, including:
- The best interests of the child
- The income and assets of both parties
- The standard of living in both homes
- The age and health of parents and children
- The educational needs of the child
- The earning capacity of each parent
- Any other child support obligations of either parent
Contact the Law Offices of Lyons & Associates, PC
At the Law Offices of Lyons & Associates, PC, we represent men and women throughout New Jersey who have unresolved family law matters, including domestic violence issues. We place a premium on personalized service and attention. For a private consultation, contact us by e-mail or call our office at 908-575-9777.