What is child support?
Child support is financial support that one party, the “Obligor,” pays to the other party, the “Obligee,” for the support of their child/children. Child support is calculated pursuant to the New Jersey Child Support Guidelines, based upon the parties’ respective incomes, net of taxes. Thirty-seven percent (37%) of the total Guidelines child support amount is comprised of the child’s variable expenses, which are food and transportation costs, thirty-eight percent (38%) is comprised of the child’s fixed costs, such as the child’s share of the expenses associated with the dwelling, utilities, household furnishings, and household care items, and twenty-five percent (25%) is comprised of controlled expenses (expenses that the parent of primary residence has control over), such as clothing, personal care, entertainment, and other miscellaneous expenses.
Under what circumstances can a child support obligation be modified?
In order to modify a child support order, the court must consider whether the moving party, i.e. the party seeking the modification, has met his or her burden of making an initial showing of changed circumstances that warrant a modification. In making its determination in this regard, the court will look to see whether or not the facts that existed at the time that the most recent child support order was entered have changed. In addition, the claimed change in circumstances must be permanent, substantial and unanticipated. If the change in circumstances is found to be temporary or the change has not yet occurred and is only anticipated, the request for modification will be denied. There is no bright line rule by which to measure when a change in circumstances has endured long enough to warrant a modification of a child support obligation, each case is fact sensitive.
Courts have recognized a substantial increase or decrease in the obligor’s or obligee’s income as “changed circumstances” that may warrant a modification in a child support award, as well as an increase in the cost of living.
When the moving party is seeking a modification of child support, the guiding principal is the best interests of the child/children. Whether or not a child support obligation should be modified lies solely within the Family Part judge’s discretion.
Only after the moving party has made the inital showing of a change in circumstances does the responding party’s finances become a factor for the court to consider.
A Common Misstep When Seeking Modification of Child Support
Many litigants make the mistake of requesting a modification of his or her child support obligation too soon after a change of circumstances has occurred; again, the courts require that the change in circumstances be permanent.
Under certain facts and circumstances, one court considered a moving party’s unemployment of three months to be a “temporary” change in circumstances; whereas, another court found that a party’s inability to find comparable work within twenty months to be “temporary.” Based upon the difficulty in determining whether or not the circumstances are permanent, so as to justify a modification in the child support award, an individual seeking a modification of his or her child support obligation would be well served by seeking the advice of counsel prior to taking action.
For more information on the changes in the child support guidelines, see CLICK HERE TO SEE THE GUIDELINES
This article is not intended to be relied upon as advice for your particular circumstance. Therefore, consult with a qualified divorce attorney about issues concerning child support modification.
© Shanahan & Voigt, LLC 2014
BE ADVISED that these comments are not legal opinions and are not to be relied upon as legal advice. If you need legal advice, contact your county bar association; most of which have referral services.