POST-JUDGMENT MOTIONS TO MODIFY CHILD SUPPORT OR ALIMONY OBLIGATIONS
A party may make an application to the Court to modify a child support obligation or alimony obligation contained in their Property Settlement Agreement or child support order. The standard that the litigant must show is that there has been a permanent and substantial change in their financial situation where they can no longer meet their support obligations. This standard for a modification of a support obligation was established in Lepis v. Lepis, 83 N.J. 139 (1980). The Courts will only grant these applications for modifications of support obligations if the litigant can prove that their financial situation is both permanent and substantial. This article will address some of the crucial steps that a person must take prior to filing a motion and factors that must be addressed within the motion.
The party seeking the modification has the burden of proof to show that their financial situation has changed in both a permanent and substantial way. If you have lost your job and you are either unemployed or underemployed, the first factor that the Court will look at is if this job loss was voluntary or involuntary. The Court will then consider the length of time that you have been unemployed or underemployed and whether you have diligently sought employment since that time. In order to maximize your chance of prevailing in Court, it is crucial that you keep detailed documentation of your job searches. This includes posting your resume on the Internet. It should be noted that the courts have been unwilling to accept only Internet searches as an adequate job search.
The Court also must weigh not only your financial situation but the continuing financial needs of the ex-spouse and or the children’s needs and compare this need from the time the initial support obligation was ordered and at the time the motion is filed. To that end, you must attach your Case Information Statement or financial statement that was filed at the time of the order (if one was completed) to your modification motion and then you must fill out and attach an updated Case Information Statement. This provides the Court with a comprehensive financial snapshot of your current income, lifestyle expenses and the value of your assets that are available to pay support. Therefore, it is imperative that you keep detailed financial information including assets, liabilities and any changes in expenses as the Court considers your current lifestyle and expenditures. Donnelly v. Donnelly, 405 N.J. Super 117, 130 (App.Div.2009).
Finally, after filing your application for modification of your alimony or child support obligation, if the Court finds that you have shown a substantial and permanent change in your financial situation, then the Court may then order a plenary hearing where a more detailed financial examination is then conducted. It should be noted that most judges do not grant a retroactive modification to the time that your circumstances changed, ie: a job loss, but rather from the date that the motion was filed with the Court. Also, in cases where the parties have limited assets, the Court has been more willing to order a temporary downward modification which provides some relief for the obligor while maintaining support for the obligee. Sometimes this difference in support is ordered to be paid later or tacked on the end of a support obligation if the obligation is of limited duration.
As you can see, these motions for modification of support require specific documentation and it is crucial for the party seeking modification to provide the Court with a showing of a permanent and substantial change in their financial situation in order to prevail. Having experienced representation for these motions may make the difference in prevailing on any modification of support. Green & Associates, LLC has assisted many clients in making these applications to the Court. Please call our offices today to schedule a free consultation.