Modification of Child Support
When a parent chooses to have a child, the law requires them to financially support that child until adulthood. This support is subject to the needs of the child, and sometimes, the ability of a parent to pay it. Child support is never permanent. It can always be modified. Be sure to follow the specific legal procedure when requesting a child support modification in NJ.
The most common reason to modify child support is for ‘changed circumstances.’ Usually, this means that the paying parent’s income has substantially decreased or increased since the time the last order was signed and entered by the court. This change must be lasting, significant, and unexpected. For example, if the obligor has lost their job, or become disabled to the point where they will no longer be expected to have the same earning capacity. On the other hand, if the obligor receives a promotion and pay raise, this would probably be sufficient to support an upward modification.
Changed circumstances can also include those of the child. If the child’s needs have changed, such as with a disability, or additional daycare, the court can issue a child support modification order.
Someone can petition for a child support modification in NJ if there is a need to adjust the order for Costs of Living. Under Rule 5:6B of the NJ Court Rules, child support must be adjusted every two years to adjust changes in the cost of living. Further, a party can request a modification in child support for an order that is is over three years old.
During a child support modification in NJ, no matter what the grounds are, the Court must follow a similar process. First, the parent who is requesting the modification must file a petition with the Court. You will need to attach a certified copy of the prior order you want to be modified, current case information statements, and any supporting affidavits as needed.
The judge will then decide whether or not there has been a change in circumstances if that is what has been pled. This will require an evidentiary hearing. You should always consider hiring an attorney to help you gather the evidence and represent you in the trial for child support modifications. Each party will need to supply the court with their current financial information, including pay stubs and tax returns. If the only grounds requested for a modification are based solely on the cost of living adjustment, then the court can dispense with a hearing and order an increase based solely on the calculation.
In some cases, a judge can impute income to a parent who is underemployed. If the court believes a parent is purposely underemployed, especially to avoid paying more child support, the court can treat that parent’s income as if it is more than their actual earnings. Before imputing income, the court will determine the reason for unemployment. The court will also determine what assets that are available to use as support.
Before modifying child support, you must obtain an order from the court. Many parents who amicably co-parent believe that they can reach an informal or oral agreement regarding a change in child support. This is particularly common where one party is unexpectedly laid off. They might ask the other parent for a break in child support for a time until they can get back on their feet. Even if the other parent agrees, that parent can pursue past-due child support in court, meaning the other parent can face arrearages and interest accruing. The recipient party often claims that they did not waive their right to the extra money; rather, they had agreed to allow them to defer full payment until the other parent’s circumstances improved.
When pursuing a child support modification in NJ, it is crucial to obtain a written court order reflecting any changes in payment to protect yourself. If you have questions about how to modify a child support order in NJ, call The Law Offices of Peter Van Aulen at 201-845-7400 today, for a free initial consultation. Peter Van Aulen is a certified matrimonial attorney with over twenty-five years experience. He wants to try to help you.