What You Need to Know About Post-Judgment Modifications in NJ
In an ideal world, your final divorce decree would be the last word on the matter. Property division, child custody, child support, and all other issues pertinent to your divorce would be fully resolved and you would never need to step into a courtroom again. Unfortunately, the real world is not always so simple. Lives change, financial circumstances can improve or become more troubled, and after a few years, you or your former spouse may need to adjust the terms of your divorce settlement. Continue reading to learn about how post-judgment modifications work in New Jersey. If you are seeking to modify the terms of your final divorce judgment, or if you are contesting modifications sought by your ex, call a seasoned New Jersey divorce modification attorney for advice and representation.
The Court Can Modify Your Divorce Judgment
When the New Jersey family court issues the final divorce decree, that order has the force of law. Both parties to the decree are bound by the court’s order and the terms set therein, including any divorce settlement that has been incorporated into the decree. Neither party has the authority to unilaterally change the terms of the divorce, nor do they have the authority to refuse to comply with any terms of the divorce until they obtain the permission of either the other party or the court to do so.
If your ex wishes to alter the terms of your child support, alimony, or child custody arrangement, they must obtain your permission or seek a court order modifying the divorce order. The same applies to you. Violating a court order can result in penalties, a contempt of court order, and even jail time. Keep in mind that that goes both ways–if your ex is refusing to pay child support, they are subject to court enforcement and sanctions. But if you retaliate by refusing to let them see their kids according to the terms of the custody arrangement, you are also at risk for sanctions. Discuss any concerns with your family law attorney and make sure to go through the appropriate channels for enforcement and, where necessary, modification.
Modifications Based on Changed Circumstances
Most post-judgment modifications concern the terms of the divorce that continue on an ongoing basis–child custody, alimony (spousal support), and child support. New Jersey law understands that, while these terms are meant to be set for the long-term, circumstances can change for the parties such that the original terms are no longer tenable. Modification of these terms can be made by motion to the family court and upon a showing of “changed circumstances.”
“Changed circumstances” means a change in either party’s circumstance from how things were at the time of the divorce, typically related to finances, which would make compliance with the current order difficult or impossible. The changed circumstance must be significant, permanent, and not anticipated at the time of the divorce.
Common changes in circumstance that may lead to a modification of child support or alimony include:
- Loss of employment or underemployment
- A serious illness, accident, disease, or disability that affects earning potential
- Significant changes to the cost of living
- Inheritance, a significant increase in income, or some other financial windfall for the recipient spouse
- Changes in the income tax laws
- Cohabitation or remarriage of the recipient spouse
- The death of either party
The court may also grant a modification to the child support order based on a variety of reasons, including relocation to a distant city or state, abuse or neglect of the child, incarceration, addiction, change in obligations such as work schedules, an injury or illness that affects the parent’s ability to care for the child, or special needs of the child.
Modifications to the property settlement portion of the divorce decree are more complex. Those terms are meant to be a one-time transfer of ownership. They will typically be modifiable only upon a showing of fraud, other misconduct, or a significant mistake in the evidence that affects the terms of the order.
Get Help Modifying Your New Jersey Family Court Order Today
If you’re looking to modify a divorce court order dealing with issues involving parental rights, child custody, equitable division of property, alimony/spousal support, child support, or other family law matters in New Jersey, contact the knowledgeable and effective Union family law attorney John B. D’Alessandro for a consultation.