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
- The paying parent can no longer meet his or her child support obligation due to financial hardship.
- The paying parent has had a significant increase or decrease in income.
- The receiving parent has had a significant increase or decrease in income.
- The receiving parent begins receiving financial support from another source.
- The housing situation of either parent changes.
- Federal income tax laws change.
When asking a court to modify a child support payment, the parent seeking the change carries the burden of proof. This means that the parent who wishes to modify the payment must convince a judge that a substantial, permanent, and unanticipated change in circumstances has actually occurred. The judge will then consider many factors, most of which are directly related to the economic and health status of each parent, to determine whether an increase or decrease in child support is necessary. Once the judge has made a decision, she or he will either issue an order to modify the child support payment or state that no modification is necessary.
If you are a parent and have a child support agreement with your child’s mother or father, you may wish to have the payment modified due to changes in your personal or financial situation. Whether you are a paying parent who wishes to reduce the amount of the child support payment, a receiving parent who wishes to increase the amount, or a parent in either situation who believes a child support modification is necessary to protect your children’s best interests, it is important to have proper legal representation. With the help of an experienced attorney who is knowledgeable about New Jersey family and child support laws, you can protect your rights and make sure that your children receive the financial support that they deserve.