If you want to get a child support or alimony order changed in New Jersey, you have to show that the circumstances have changed in a way that justifies the change. As the State’s Superior Court recently explained, judges are expected to compare the circumstances in place at the time the award was set to those in place at the time the request is made.
Husband and Wife divorced in 2012, following 11 years of marriage in which they had two kids. Husband was working as a loan officer at the time, bringing in about $24,000 per year. He was ordered to pay $231 a month in combined alimony and child support. That order was still in place two years later, when Husband went back to court and asked a judge to modify the arrangement. He said he’d been laid off due to an economic downturn and was unable to find a new job. Husband also said he’d lost his professional license as a result of poor credit and had lost money in real estate investments.
The trial court denied Husband’s motion to modify the support order. The judge said she wasn’t inclined to change the order so soon after an eight-day trial on the issue. She also found that Husband remained “capable of working” and “doing more.” As a result, the judge said Husband had not proved a sufficient change in circumstances to justify reducing the support award. Although Husband argued in a motion for reconsideration that Wife was living with her new boyfriend and had the capacity to make more money, the court said he didn’t present enough evidence to prove those claims.
Reversing the decision on appeal, the Superior Court said the trial judge erred in relying solely on the length of time that Husband had been unemployed to find no change in circumstances. Instead, the Court said the trial judge should have also considered the overall change in financial circumstances. The judge abused her discretion, according to the Court, “by failing to compare the parties’ financial circumstances at the time the initial support order was entered with the circumstances presented by defendant in his modification motion.” The Court said the judge didn’t explain the circumstances on which the previous judge had relied initially in setting the award level. Nor did she consider whether those circumstances had changed. The Court reversed the decision and remanded the case back to the trial judge to perform this analysis.
As this case makes clear, a person considering a divorce or grappling with support issues should consult an experienced attorney. The New Jersey lawyers at Helfand & Associates have more than 100 years of combined experience representing clients in a wide range of divorce, child custody, and support cases. We handle alimony issues regularly. Our lawyers work diligently to ease the stress on clients in what can be a trying process by building persuasive cases for the people whom we represent.
Our offices are conveniently located in Whippany and New York City. We are happy to offer clients a free consultation in family law and other cases. Contact us online, call our New Jersey office at (973) 428-0800, or call our New York City office at (646) 213-9053 to set up an appointment with one of our attorneys.