Child support is the legal obligation of one of a minor child’s parents to provide the other parent with money or other assets to be used for the child support of their child. Often times, child support is court-ordered, requiring one parent to make a payment to the other until the child reaches the age of majority. Although the payment is made from one parent to another, the money does not belong to the receiving parent because it actually belongs to the child. The amount of the payment is based on a number of factors, including each parent’s financial situation, the number of children the couple has, the special needs of the children, the age of the parents and children, the ability of each parent to provide for the child, and other economic factors.
Over time, circumstances that affect the child support calculation may change, and the child support order may need to be modified. In order to account for changes in the cost of living, New Jersey law provides that child support payments automatically increase every two years. This cost of living adjustment (COLA), takes into account general economic factors but does not consider the individual needs of the parents.
In order to account for the specific changes surrounding either parent’s life and financial situation, New Jersey law allows for a parent to seek a child support modification. Either parent may request a child support modification by filing a legal motion, as long as there is a change in circumstances that affects the calculation. The specific change that a parent uses as a basis to modify the child support payment must be permanent, substantial, and unanticipated. Situations that may qualify as a changed circumstance include the following