If you lose your job, you have a lot of new worries. For parents paying or receiving child support in New Jersey, though, there are a host of additional concerns. For the paying parent, the potential of escalating back payments means escalating consequences. And, for the receiving parent, the increased and unexpected financial strain comes from lost expected income.
Can job loss be the reason for a child support modification in New Jersey?
Yes. The initiating parent must substantiate the existence of “changed circumstances,” which refers to events or situations that are substantial, material, permanent, and affect the financial needs of the child or the parents’ ability to pay or receive child support. Job loss stands out as a common catalyst. However, not every job loss automatically qualifies as a changed circumstance necessitating modification.
Evaluating the impact of job loss on child support
When evaluating the impact of job loss on child support, the court considers several factors, including the reason for job loss. The court assesses whether the job loss was voluntary, such as quitting without just cause, being terminated for misconduct or opting for early retirement. They also look to the duration of unemployment. Temporary or short-term job loss might not automatically trigger modification unless evidence suggests a prolonged effect on income. Voluntary or short-term job loss may not warrant modification.
The court will also look at the efforts to find new employment. The court expects the parent facing job loss to actively seek comparable employment opportunities. Consideration is also given to unemployment benefits or alternative income sources available to the parent and weigh any modification against its impact on the child’s best interests.
Initiating a child support modification in New Jersey
Initiating the process involves filing an application with the court that issued the original order. The required forms, including Application for Post Dispositional Relief, Confidential Litigant Information Sheet, Certification of Non-Military Service, Financial Statement for Summary Support Actions and others. A $25 filing fee is typically applicable unless a fee waiver is granted. Upon submission, a court hearing is scheduled, providing an opportunity for the judge to review the case and decide on the modification request.
Alternatively, parents can opt for a consensual agreement, submitting a consent order to the court for approval. While faster than a court hearing, a consent order still requires judicial approval to ensure fairness and alignment with the child’s best interests.