In a case decided on July 30, 2014, Viso vs. Viso, the Appellate Division rejected an appeal to modify the court order which denied the supporting spouse’s obligation to terminate or modify his support obligations. In this instance, the parties’ were divorced in December 2007 and memorialized their agreement in a property settlement agreement which the court incorporated into their final judgment of divorce.
Approximately four and a half years later the Plaintiff, the supporting spouse, filed a motion to modify his support obligations asserting that his financial circumstances had changed, his income had decreased, and that the defendant, the supported spouse, had increased income. His motion was denied by the trial court.
In New Jersey, a court may modify support if there is a showing of changed circumstances. Those changed circumstances can include an increase or decrease in a supporting spouse’s income. It may also include an increase in the supported spouse’s income as well as subsequent employment by the dependent spouse. The party who seeks to modify the support amount has the burden of proof.
In this case, in reviewing 3 years of the supporting spouses personal tax returns, one year, the middle year, showed an increase in the income that was used for purposes of the property settlement agreement. In addition, the payor spouse in this case was self-employed which raises other issues regarding the financial proofs that are submitted to the court. In this case, the accountant’s compilation report of business income made no assurance that there would not be material modifications at a later date. The court has previously ruled that a lesser period of decreased income will not constitute a temporary change of circumstances when the obligor is self-employed. This is because a self-employed obligor is in a better position to present an unrealistic picture of their actual income than a W-2 wage earner.
As a result, in New Jersey, what constitutes a temporary change in income should be viewed more expansively when asserted by a self-employed obligor.
If you’d like to speak to an experienced family law attorney in New Jersey regarding the issues in this blog post or any other family law issue, please contact Goldstein Law Group