Current New Jersey law requires that both parents support their children, regardless of their marital status. In many cases, one parent is deemed the Parent of Primary Residence (PPR), with whom the child or children reside the majority of the time. Typically, the non-custodial parent, or the Parent of Alternate Residence (PAR), pays child support to help meet the child’s/children’s basic needs such as food, housing, and clothing. Even in joint residential custody situations, payment of child support can be required. It is important to note that child support payments are for the benefit of the child, not the PPR, though the custodial parent is the physical recipient of the support payments on behalf of the minor child/children.
In some instances, a parent’s financial circumstances may change over time, impacting the existing child support order. In New Jersey, if you or the other parent have had a permanent and substantial change in circumstances, you may file for a modification of the existing child support order.
What Circumstances Qualify for Modifying Child Support?
Either party may seek to modify child support, regardless of which parent experiences a substantial change in circumstances. However, the parent who requests the modification is responsible for providing the necessary proof to support their request. In order to modify a child support order, the changed circumstances must meet one or more of the following criteria:
- A new or changing serious health issue or disability of either parent or the child/children;
- A higher cost of living or change of expenses;
- The non-custodial parent’s income has increased or decreased; or the custodial parent has gained employment or experienced an increase or decrease of income;
- A loss of income for either parent;
- The custodial parent has lost housing or is living with another adult;
- Changes of federal or state income tax laws have occurred;
- A change of custody;
- The child attending college and living away from home;
- The marriage or death of a child;
- The emancipation of a child;
- An increase or decrease in parenting time; or
- The parent is now supporting additional children.
If you meet one or more of the above criteria and you cannot reach an agreement with the other parent, you will need to file a motion with the court requesting modification. Your motion must include a copy of the existing court order to be changed, prior and current Case Information Statements, income tax returns, W2’s, paystubs and other proof of income from all sources, and supporting affidavits and arguments, along with documents demonstrating the need for a modification of the child support.
The Judge assigned to your case will review the submitted documentation to determine whether a modification of child support is warranted, pursuant to the following criteria:
- The child’s needs;
- The current age and health of the child and both parents;
- Each parent’s standard of living and associated economic circumstances;
- Each parent’s income, assets, debts, and other liabilities;
- Factors regarding each parent’s earning ability, such as education, training, work experience, additional responsibilities of the custodial parent, and the cost and time required for each parent to acquire training or experience to obtain employment, if applicable;
- The child’s educational needs and abilities, including higher education;
- The child’s income, assets, debts, and other liabilities, and their earning ability, if of employment age;
- Each parent’s responsibility for court-ordered support for other children;
- And any other relevant factors.
In the vast majority of cases, the court will apply the New Jersey Child Support Guidelines. However, an experienced family law attorney can make arguments to show that the Guidelines should be rejected or modified under the appropriate circumstances.
The State recognizes that the cost of living typically increases on an annual basis. New Jersey adjusts child support awards every two years to accommodate the pace of inflation. This is called a cost-of-living adjustment, or COLA. These COLA adjustments will occur automatically only if child support is paid through Probation. However, the obligor can contest this action if his/her income has not increased at the same rate of inflation.
There is one notable exception to the substantial changed circumstances requirement: federal law requires states to perform a review of child support orders for families receiving Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) benefits every three years, and adjust the amount of child support following the review, if necessary.
New Jersey Child Support Attorneys at Lepp, Mayrides & Eaton, LLC Can Assist Clients Seeking a Child Support Modification
If you feel you or your child’s other parent’s circumstances have changed substantially, you may be eligible to request a modification to your existing child support order. The experienced New Jersey child support attorneys at Lepp, Mayrides & Eaton, LLC can assist and advise you through the modification process. Call us at 908-800-7676 or contact us online to schedule a consultation. Located in Somerville, New Jersey, our attorneys serve clients throughout Central New Jersey, including Somerset, Hunterdon, Warren, Morris, Mercer, Union, Monmouth and Middlesex counties.