Change in Circumstance and What it Means for You

Nov 11, 2020

If you or a loved one have ever gone through a divorce, you know the dreaded phrase: change in circumstances. This phrase is used when attempting to alter an alimony or child support obligation under the belief that this change is significant enough that the original obligation can no longer be fulfilled.

In New Jersey, child support is typically calculated through child support guidelines. Some of the factors analyzed include looking at the families’ combined incomes as well as the amount of time that the children spend at one parent’s home vs the other’s home. It is possible that years after the original divorce decree, child custody and child support arrangements may be modified. In  Certo v. Certo, No. A-2004-18T2, 2020 N.J. Super. Unpub. LEXIS 1703 (Super. Ct. App. Div. Sep. 11, 2020) , a minor son began living with his father even though the original custody arrangement awarded mother primary custody. Upon the son moving in, the father reduced his child support payments to the mother. Although the father may have been right in believing that he was permitted to pay less child support, the court found this to be a violation of his obligation. The court held that the father must seek a court ordered modification before altering his payments.

Change in Circumstances is often used as a way to modify alimony as well. In New Jersey, alimony is incredibly complicated; while there isn’t an official formula for alimony, the court looks at many factors when determining the award. In the case of Gnall v. Gnall, 222 N.J. 414 (2015), the NJ Supreme Court declared that “no one factor is singularly determinative and that all factors should be given weight in adjudicating an alimony award. Nevertheless, the earned income, or the ability of each party to earn an income, is central to any analysis pertaining to alimony.”

In order to alter support, the  party moving for modification must show a prima facie case showing the change in circumstances. No matter what change occurs, a court order is always required to alter a judgment. One should never decide unilaterally to alter payments. 

If you believe you have a significant change in circumstances and the alteration of support is required, the attorneys at Sarno da Costa D’Aniello Maceri LLC are available to assist you in any way you and your family need. Please call (973) 274-5200 to schedule a consultation today.