When Does Child Support Get Modified?

When Does Child Support Get Modified?

Many things can change in people's lives and circumstances after a child support order is issued in New Jersey. The state recognizes that changes in circumstances might sometimes warrant a reduction or increase in monthly child support payments and provides a mechanism for either parent to seek an adjustment from the court in the monthly child support amount. However, specific factors must exist before a parent can be granted a child support modification. A child support lawyer can advise you about whether you might be eligible for a child support modification and help you through the process. Here is some information from the Ziegler Law Group about when a child support order might be modified in New Jersey.

Automatic Changes - Cost of Living Adjustment

Under New Jersey Court Rule 5:6B, child support orders entered since Sept. 1, 1998, receive automatic cost-of-living adjustments every two years. However, these changes only affect child support that is handled by the state. If you reached a negotiated agreement with your ex with the help of a divorce lawyer in New Jersey for the child support amount you pay or receive that was silent about cost-of-living adjustments, the child support amount in your case will not be subject to cost-of-living adjustments.

If your order is handled by the state, the COLA adjustments will be based on the Consumer Price Index (CPI) for the applicable metropolitan statistical area of New Jersey in which you live. The state will send a notice to you and your child's other parent 30 days before the proposed increase, and either of you can object to the adjustment when the party ordered to pay support hasn't received an increase in income that matches inflation. If you are the party who is ordered to pay child support and want to object to a COLA notice you have recently received, you should speak to a child support lawyer to learn about your rights and options.

Triennial Review of Child Support

If you receive or pay child support and want the amount adjusted, the law allows you to request a review once every three years. To do this, you can apply through the County Board of Social Service Agency. The review will be based on the current income of you and the other parent and the New Jersey child support guidelines. If there has been a 20% change in the income of either party since the date the order was entered or last modified, the state might adjust the child support amount.

A parent can also ask for the cost of medical insurance provided for the child by either parent to be added to the order if it wasn't initially included during a triennial review. This process is only available once three years have elapsed since the date of the initial order or the date of the most recent modification.

Modification Based on a Substantial Change in Circumstances

A parent can file a motion to modify child support at any time when a substantial change in their circumstances has occurred under N.J. Ct. R. 5:6A. When the court determines whether to grant a modification request, it will consider the factors included in Appendix IX-A of the New Jersey Child Support Guidelines and other relevant factors.

Either party can seek a modification of child support to reduce or increase the payments. Before it can be granted, the movant must be able to show that they have experienced a substantial enough change in circumstances since the current order was issued to warrant a modification. The court will individually assess the situation to determine whether to grant the modification, and the moving party will have the burden of showing that the change in circumstances was material, permanent, and unexpected.

Some examples of the types of changes that might justify a modification to a child support order include the following:

  • Involuntary loss of employment
  • Suffering a permanently disabling injury
  • Developing a permanently disabling illness
  • Gaining a promotion with a substantial increase in pay
  • Significant change in parenting time
  • Child's development of a serious health condition
  • Changes in the number of children a parent is ordered to support

If the motion to modify is based on unemployment, the parent will need to prove that the loss of employment was involuntary, permanent, and unlikely to change. A parent who voluntarily quits their job will not be likely to receive a reduction in the amount of child support since the court can impute income to them. This means the court can consider what the parent is capable of earning based on their earnings record, education, skills, and statistics from the New Jersey Department of Labor for professionals in the same field with similar backgrounds.

In some cases, a parent might have the child for significantly more time than what is included in the custody order. For example, if the primary residential custodian leaves the child with the other parent for the majority of the time, the non-custodial parent might file motions to modify custody and child support. If the primary residential custodian has developed a substance abuse problem or another issue that endangers the child when the child is in their presence, the other parent should ask the court to modify custody and the child support order in the child's best interests to keep them safe.

Are Modifications Applied Retroactively?

When a court modifies a child support order, it generally won't be applied retroactively. The new order will be retroactive back to the date the motion to modify support was filed but not to the date the change occurred. This makes it important for people to file motions to modify child support as soon as a substantial change in circumstances occurs.

If a parent loses their job and is struggling to make their child support payments, any arrears will continue to build. A child support order does not automatically go away just because of your change in financial circumstances. If you are facing that type of situation, you should immediately talk to your divorce lawyer in New Jersey to get help with filing a motion to modify your child support. While your modification case is pending, continue to make your child support payments as ordered to prevent going into arrears. Child support arrears do not go away and can't be discharged in bankruptcy. This means they will need to be fully repaid.

Can You Modify a Child Support Order by Agreement?

If you and your ex agree to modify the child support order, you can negotiate an agreed-upon amount and file a stipulated motion to change your child support order with the court. The court will review the motion and will grant it as long as it is fair, just, and in your child's best interests.

Consult a Divorce Lawyer in New Jersey

Your child support can be modified in New Jersey automatically through a cost-of-living adjustment every two years, upon your request when three years have passed since the date of the most recent order, or at any time when you have experienced a substantial change in circumstances upon a motion to modify your child support. To learn more about your rights to a modification or for help in contesting a modification motion filed by the other parent, contact the Ziegler Law Group, LLC today at (973) 533-1100.

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