Modifying an Existing Child Support Agreement
Child support can be a contentious issue. A custodial parent may feel as if he or she is entitled to a larger monthly award, while the non-custodial parent may believe the amount awarded is excessive. Because of the difficulties that many estranged couples experience when reaching their initial child support agreement, they may be less inclined to revisit that agreement when financial circumstances change. However, it is important to note that courts are amenable to granting modifications of child support when circumstances change.
Child support is intended to cover the basic expenses of caring for minor dependent children, including needs related to food, clothing, education, housing and health care. A divorce in New Jersey requires application of a child support formula (known as the Child support Guidelines) when a couple is unable to reach an agreement on their own regarding a monthly award. The Guidelines consider parental income, number and age of any shared children, the amount of annual overnight visits each parent will have with their children, and other regular and recurring expenses such as medical insurance or daycare for the children.
These factors can easily change over time. When a non-custodial parent loses his or her job, it might be hard to pay the ordered amount of child support. Conversely, if a custodial parent becomes unemployed, the non-custodial parent may need to contribute more. Increases in parental salaries also can be considered by the courts as well.
As children age, their needs may change, causing monthly expenses to increase or decrease. The cost of caring for an infant or toddler enrolled in full-time daycare may be lower once the child enters public school. However, the cost of caring for a child entering private school, either as a grade school student or as an adolescent, will rise exponentially. Disagreements over extracurricular activities, schooling, and daycare costs will often necessitate revisiting and potentially modifying a child support agreement.
Child support orders are regularly adjusted regardless of whether a former couple undergoes a change in financial circumstances. Rule 5:6B of the New Jersey Court Rules requires the New Jersey Child Support Probation Department to modify court-ordered child support arrangements every two years, considering the increased costs of living. If a supporting spouse feels that the cost of living adjustment (COLA) is too high, they may contest the sum in court.
Moreover, all child support orders are subject to a triennial review, if a review is requested by either party. Importantly, the triennial review, guaranteed by state and federal statutes, need not be based upon a change in financial circumstances. Instead, a supporting spouse can initiate the triennial review whenever an existing child support order is more than three years old or more than three years has lapsed since the last triennial review. As with a COLA, however, the outcome of a triennial review can be challenged.
New Jersey Child Support Lawyers at Lyons & Associates Have Experience with Child Support Modifications
A divorcing couple, as well as unmarried couples who are breaking up, should always remain cognizant of the nature of child support orders and agreements. If you feel as though a change in your financial circumstances or the financial circumstances of your former spouse merits a greater or lesser monthly child support award, our child support lawyers in New Jersey at Lyons & Associates may be able to help. Our experienced team of litigators serves clients in all stages of divorce, including those in need of a child support modification. Contact our Somerville offices by calling 908-575-9777 or by contacting us online to schedule your appointment today.