Modification of Child Support

Bergen County Attorney Helping Parents Protect Their Rights

At the time of a divorce, spouses must wrangle with a number of financial issues, including the computation of child support. But no matter how much time and effort is put into the calculation, it only reflects current realities; it cannot anticipate how each parent’s income and the child’s needs may alter in the future. For this reason, New Jersey allows for the modification of child support. Whether you are the payer or the payee, if you need to seek a modification or defend against a request for a modification, Bergen County child support modification lawyer Howard B. Leopold can assist you. For over 25 years, Leopold Law has been assisting Northern New Jersey parents who are seeking a child support attorney to guide them through the legal process.

When May Child Support be Modified?

Child support is an obligation of both parents that may not be waived until a child is emancipated, which, under New Jersey law, may sometimes extend until a child reaches 23 years of age, depending upon the circumstances. The total child support obligation is based upon the combined income of both parents and the needs of the child at a particular time. Initially, this is the time of separation or divorce. It is then allocated between the parents based on income level and custody arrangements.

While some child support orders or agreements take into account future costs, such as how the parents will allocate the costs of college, the only “automatic” adjustment to child support obligations provided by New Jersey law is a “cost of living adjustment” that applies once every two years, based upon the Consumer Price Index.

However, since the financial situation of each parent often changes over the course of a child’s life, formal modifications of child support are common. The process may be initiated by the New Jersey Board of Social Services, which is supposed to review existing orders every three years to assess whether they are consistent with more recent financial data regarding the parents’ income and the child’s needs. If, in the view of the Board, a modification is warranted, it may refer the matter to the court for a modification.

However, outside this process, either parent may also apply to the court for a modification. This process may be complex, so it is important to consult a child support modification attorney in Bergen County if you are considering it. The legal standard for a modification is “changed circumstances.” However, the changed circumstances must be substantial enough to warrant restructuring the support obligation of both parents. Events that typically constitute “changed circumstances” include losing a job, getting a demotion, changing careers, retiring, or suffering an illness or a disabling injury. However, these events by themselves are not necessarily sufficient to warrant a modification.

For example, suppose that a parent quits a high-paying career as a corporate executive to pursue a dream career chartering fishing boats, which earns less. The court may deny that parent’s request for a modification on the principle that, regardless of the parent’s new actual income, that parent nevertheless retains the ability to earn at their previous level. Consequently, since the parent’s decision to reduce their own income was voluntary, the parent should bear the burden of the reduction rather than the child.

Furthermore, to meet the changed circumstances test, the change must be more or less permanent or at least long-lasting. Under this standard, even a job loss is insufficient to trigger a modification if the court anticipates that the parent should be able to obtain comparable employment within a relatively short time frame.

Contact a Child Support Modification Lawyer in Bergen County

There is no simple way to ascertain whether a particular change in financial circumstances is sufficient to obtain a modification of child support. However, if you have suffered a change in your financial situation, and you need to seek a modification, or if your ex-spouse is pursuing a modification that causes concern about your ability to provide for your child, seek competent legal advice without delay. Modification proceedings may be lengthy, and both parents must adhere to the terms of an existing child support order until it is modified, no matter how difficult it may be to comply with it. For advice and representation, contact Bergen County child support modification attorney Howard B. Leopold online or by calling 201-345-5907. He can assist parents seeking a family law attorney in Hackensack, Newark, Jersey City, Paterson, and other cities in Bergen, Essex, Hudson, and Passaic Counties.

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