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Modifying Child Support After Divorce

Smiling single young mum embracing little daughter

In an ideal world, a divorce settlement would finalize all issues, now and forever, leaving all parties secure in their understanding of their rights and responsibilities.  Life is not so predictable, unfortunately, and as we’ve discussed before, financial circumstances may change following a divorce.  If your divorce established an award of child support, there might be grounds to modify that award in the future, should financial circumstances change for you or your former spouse.  Continue reading for a discussion of how to modify child support obligations in New Jersey, and contact an experienced New Jersey child support and alimony modification attorney with any questions or for help with a New Jersey family law matter.

Change of Circumstances

Child support orders generally require a non-custodial parent to pay a monthly sum to the parent with whom the child or children primarily reside.  The amount established by the order is meant to stay the same, absent a significant change in circumstances.  Such a change may render the amount insufficient inadequate for the recipient, or impractical for the payer.

Like most states, New Jersey courts allow a parent to seek modification of a child support order based on a change in the financial circumstances of either parent or the child being supported.  Child support is generally based on the incomes of the parents.  In New Jersey, a person seeking to modify support must demonstrate that not only has there been a change in circumstances, but that the change was substantial, permanent, and unforeseen.  If the change was minor or temporary, a court might choose to ignore the change and keep the status quo.  Moreover, if a change was expected, then the parties should have brought up the anticipated circumstances at the time the child support award was entered, and the support order would have been able to account for the anticipated change.

Typical changes in circumstances that may trigger a modification include the following:

  • Loss of employment
  • Change of employment or significant change in salary
  • Extended or otherwise debilitating illness or disability
  • Incarceration
  • Remarriage
  • Retirement
  • Having another child after the divorce
  • Change in custody (e.g., if the paying parent becomes the parent of primary residence, or if a parent suddenly becomes the custodial parent but does not have a child support order on the books)
  • A child reaches age 18 and plans to go to college

Alternatives to Court

In New Jersey, either parent may request a review of the child support award every three years by the County Board of Social Services, regardless of a change in circumstances.  The review will mainly look at the respective incomes of the two parents and determine if a change in the award is warranted, whether it be an increase or decrease in the amount.

Additionally, the parties can voluntarily modify the support obligation without the assistance of the court if they can both agree to the new plan.  For example, if the paying parent is injured on the job and will miss work for a time, the custodial parent may choose to accept a smaller child support amount temporarily until the injured parent returns to work. 

Parents can also go to mediation to resolve child support issues.  Mediation can be an easier and cheaper alternative to fighting out a proposed modification in court. 

Contact a New Jersey Family Law Attorney

If you’re in need of compassionate and effective legal help with child support modification, child custody, or other family law matters in New Jersey, contact the Union offices of family law attorney John B. D’Alessandro at 908-964-0102.

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