Ann Fabrikant, Esq.NJ Divorce and Family Law Attorney
A common misnomer regarding child support is that it belongs to the single parent. If it were, it would be called single parent support. Legally speaking, it is an obligation owed to the child. It may sound like a technicality but that’s the law for you. The parent who pays child support is referred to as the “obligor”. The parent receiving the support is the “obligee”. The terminology is at least consistent. However, the system for child support is not rigid. Children grow. Needs do change as can the means to provide. Child support agreements are modified. It is inevitable. The question is “How?” When it comes to modifying child support in NJ, it tends to be a matter of either the obligor not being able to make ends meet or the obligee not being able to get by on the current child support. It really depends on the circumstances.
As is to be expected, in a court of law, “changed circumstances” is a legal term with specific meaning. Any changes must be proven to be permanent or substantial. The burden of proof lies with the parent seeking the modification. If he or she fails, and the change is deemed temporary or hasn’t come to pass, the modification will be rejected. The most common scenarios where modification is successful include:
- An increase in the cost of living;
- An increase or a decrease in either parent’s income;
- A change in the parenting time schedule;
- A parent or child suffered a serious illness or disability after the court issued the original support award;
- One or both of the parent’s had additional children;
- A child goes away to college;
- A child becomes emancipated.
If the parent seeking modification makes a prima facie showing, then the other parent will have to submit financial information. Unless there are exceptions, the Court will usually apply the New Jersey Child Support Guidelines to calculate the new child support obligation.