In New Jersey, it is possible to modify a child support order, but only under limited circumstances. The law favors stability for children of divorced and separated parents, and it seeks to ensure that parents give due consideration to the establishment of their original child support award.
But, circumstances change, and when they do, it is understandable that parents may need to address contingencies they did not anticipate during their separation or divorce. New Jersey law recognizes this as well, and it allows for modification of child support based upon “changed circumstances.”
“Changed Circumstances” and Modification of Child Support
However, not just any change will justify a request to modify child support. New Jersey law requires that the change be permanent, substantial and unanticipated. If you were forced to take a lower-paying job but can still meet your child support obligations, or if you are facing a change that you should have accounted for during your original child support determination, the New Jersey courts are unlikely to grant a modification unless you can provide some other substantial justification for your request.
Assuming you have grounds to file a request for modification, the court will assess the following factors in order to determine whether (and to what extent) your current child support arrangement should be modified:
- Your child’s (or children’s) needs
- Both parents’ current standards of living
- Both parents’ current sources of income
- Both parents’ current earning capacity
- Any other factors the court deems relevant
Cost of Living Adjustments
The New Jersey Child Support Guidelines (the “Guidelines”) provide that all child support orders are subject to a cost-of-living adjustment every two years. The Guidelines state:
“Before a cost-of-living adjustment is applied, the parties shall be provided with notice of the proposed adjustment and an opportunity to contest the adjustment within 30 days of the mailing of the notice. An obligor may contest the adjustment if the obligor's income has not increased at a rate at least equal to the rate of inflation as measured by the Consumer Price Index or if the order or judgment provides for an alternative periodic cost-of-living adjustment. A cost-of-living adjustment shall not impair the right of either parent to apply . . . for a modification of support . . . based on changed circumstances.”
If I Cannot Modify My Child Support Order, When Will My Obligation to Pay End?
If you are unable to modify your current child support order, you will need to continue to meet your current obligations. Failure to pay child support can have severe consequences; and, even if you are eligible for a modification, it is important that you not start paying a reduced amount until you have received court approval. In any case, under New Jersey law, parents’ child support obligations generally end:
- When a child marries, dies or enters military service; or,
- When a child reaches 19 years of age, unless certain conditions apply.
Are You Eligible for a Child Support Modification?
If you need to seek modification of your child support order, our lawyers can help determine if you are eligible. To schedule a free and confidential consultation at one of our 12 convenient office locations in New Jersey, please call 1-877-435-6371 or contact us online today.