A very common inquiry we receive as family law attorneys in New Jersey is whether alimony and child support orders are subject to modification.
For example, what happens if you suffered a change of circumstances and you can no longer afford to pay the spousal (alimony) support that you voluntarily negotiated and agreed to pay under your Judgment of Divorce?
What can you do if your weekly child support payment leaves you without sufficient funds to live on your own? Can you just reduce the amount you pay? Do you have to file an application with the court? Is there a special burden you must meet, in order to reduce, modify or even terminate a support obligation?
Yes, New Jersey support orders are subject to modification IF you meet the necessary criteria.
Current New Jersey law provides that the party seeking to establish a modification to an existing support order bears the burden of showing a change in circumstance. A payor spouse’s alimony obligation or a parent’s child support obligations may be subject to review and possible modification, but only upon a showing of a change of circumstance.
A current Order of the Court can only be amended under two situations: 1) upon application to the Court (filing a motion), or 2) by consent (e.g.- if the payor and payee mutually agree to the modification, by consent, and they prepare and sign a consent order memorializing the terms). We call that a “consent order”. If you, the payor, cannot secure the payee’s voluntary consent to modify your support with a consent order, you must then attempt to modify your support order by filing an application with the court seeking this modification.
Once you file an application seeking this modification, the Court, in assessing a modification application will first address the threshold issue, that is, whether the moving party has met his or her burden. The moving party bears the burden of proof to establish this prima facie change in circumstance before anything else can occur, even before the moving party requests discovery of the other party’s financial status.
The leading New Jersey case in this area of the law is Lepis v. Lepis, 83 N.J. 139 (1980). After the moving party has met the necessary initial burden, the Court then will entertain discovery requests to assess both parties’ financial conditions to consider a modification of the existing order. Only after this initial burden is met will the issue of the payor’s ability to pay becomes an issue.
The moving party should be prepared to furnish the Court with original financial information dating back to the time when the divorce judgement (or a subsewquent court order affecting the support) was entered to document the baseline from which this current change in circumstance is now measured. Typically, a copy of the Case Information Statement (“CIS”) filed with the Court from the time of the divorce, together with the moving party’s current financial information from the time of the application are submitted with the motion, to demonstrate this change. The party seeking the modification must be able to demonstrate a substantially lower income and possibly a lower net worth as well now, as compared with your financial condition when your support was last fixed. If you lost your job, you must also be prepared to demonstrate that you have made a diligent, good faith effort to secure comparable employment.
Are you confused about what must happen and what needs to be done to succeed in a motion to reduce your support obligation? Please call the Goldstein Law Group, to speak with one of our five (5) knowledgeable family law attorneys that deal with these types of applications all the time and have the experience to file such an application.
Were you served with a motion to have your alimony or child support reduced ?
Do you believe the payor should not be granted a reduction? We also represent clients to oppose such an application, to help you try and keep your support at the current levels, or maybe to seek an increase.
You can call us at 732-967-6777 for a free initial phone or video consult or you can fill out the contact form on this page.