Modifying Existing Child Support Agreements
It’s not uncommon to incur a significant change of economic circumstances after a divorce decree has been entered and child support payments established. A parent may suddenly be without a job, or face medical problems that drain financial resources. In addition, the needs of the child may change. You can petition the court to amend a child support order under fairly limited circumstances.
Under New Jersey law, you can file a request for modification of a child support order any time after the court has entered a temporary (pendente lite) order or final divorce decree, or has approved a marital settlement agreement. In order to seek a change in support, you must file a motion with the court where your divorce was finalized. In your motion, you need to state as clearly and specifically as possible what has changed in your circumstances (or the circumstances of the child) that you believe merits an increase or decrease in the amount of support paid.
Once the court has received your request, the judge will have ultimate discretion to determine whether there is significant justification for a modification of the original order. The court can take a wide range of factors into consideration, including:
- The needs of the child, including any special educational needs
- The financial resources of each parent
- The responsibility of the parent for the support of others
- The income and assets of the child
- The potential earning ability of each parent
As a general rule, the court will be disinclined to make any modification if the change in circumstances is perceived as temporary. Accordingly, a parent who is temporarily jobless will probably not get any relief while unemployed, as the court does not want to amend an order every time there is any type of change.
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