It is not unusual for a New Jersey parent who as an obligation to pay child support to fall on difficult times, particularly over the past several years when the economy was not very strong and the job market suffered. A parent who experiences a job layoff, for instance, may experience severe financial troubles, including difficulty paying his or her own basic bills.
Even with unemployment insurance benefits, if available, those amounts are often far less than what the paycheck was. Reduction in income can constitute a change in circumstances that can lead to a court order modifying child support obligations.
Temporary loss of income
However, temporary setbacks may not be enough. A parent who suffers job loss, if only temporary and short term, may not be able to successfully file a motion to reduce child support. This is because case law holds that the change in circumstances must be longer than temporary.
A parent in this situation will want to consider diligently searching for a job that pays what he or she used to earn. The parent should likely pursue a job commensurate with credentials and experience. Documenting the efforts may prove helpful later if after due diligence, the parent can only secure a job that pays substantially less than the prior job. Evidence of good faith attempt to maintain the prior income level may go far to convincing the court that the reduction in income is not as temporary as hoped.
Importance of prompt filing for modification
According to New Jersey statutes 2A:17-56.23a, child support orders may not generally be retroactively modified with respect to any time period earlier than the date of the filing of a motion for a modification. Because of this, a parent who suffers a change of circumstances that may be a basis for modification should likely not unnecessarily delay the filing of the motion for modification. Although the modification decision may take place many months after the filing due to court caseloads and scheduling limitations, the court can make any order for modification effective as of the date the parent originally filed.