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When can child support be modified in New Jersey?

On Behalf of | Oct 13, 2022 | Child Support

Children can be caught in the middle of a New Jersey family law case. Often, this happens while it is in progress as part of a divorce and there is a dispute over child custody, parenting time and child support. However, even after the divorce is finalized, there can still be obstacles that must be handled through legal channels. One is if either of the parties want to modify the child support order.

What does the law say about establishing child support?

The primary objective for the court is to serve the child’s best interests. That includes making certain they have a safe place to live, have sufficient nutrition, are property clothed, have medical and dental coverage, and are provided for based on their fundamental needs. As part of a family law case in New Jersey, the law dictates how much child support must be paid. The court will look at each case individually and make its determination based on several factors.

That will include the needs of the child; what the standard of living was during the marriage; parents’ economic circumstances; how parents earn their income and what assets they have; how much the parents can earn based on their education, skills, training, past employment and how much it will cost to care for the child; the child’s basic needs; the parents’ age and health as well as the child’s; the child’s income and assets; if the parent has other support obligations; parental debts and liabilities and other factors the court finds important.

What if I need to modify the support order?

Even after the support order has been put in effect, changes might be needed. A hypothetical example might be if the child needs specific medical care that goes beyond insurance coverage and there is not enough left over after using the child support payments to cover it. There could be job loss that makes the parent want to adjust the payments. Or a parent could get a better job or the child could even start earning income that would radically change the landscape and warrant a modification.

The court will need to see a substantial change in circumstances to adjust the child support order. Once a parent believes this requirement has been met, they can file a motion with the Family Division to make the change. Parents can also have a review every three years from when the order was made or the last time it was reviewed to ask for it to be changed.

At different ages, children will have fluctuating needs. A child in elementary school might need a certain amount while a child who is in high school could need less. This often stems from medical requirements, extracurricular activities and other parts of their lives. If the award was entered, modified or enforced on or after September 1, 1998, it can be reviewed every two years based on changes to cost of living. This is not categorized as a modification.

As with any aspect of family law, legal guidance can help with modifying child support

The parents’ income and financial means are key aspects of the child support order. There can be changes in all these areas and the custodial parent who receives the payments or the noncustodial parent who is paying want to make changes. Knowing how to do this through the court system is key.

Some parents are on reasonably good terms and can negotiate the different amount on their own. In other cases, there are problems with making or receiving the child support payments and court intervention is needed to order a modification. In these cases, it is possible to have the order modified if the criteria to do so are met.

Parents who are concerned about reaching the desired outcome should understand the value of having professional help that cares about their needs and will treat them well throughout the process. Going through the proper channels, knowing the law and being fully prepared can be helped along by having guidance from professionals experienced in family law.