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New Jersey Family Law Issues After Divorce
Many people make the mistake that once their divorce is over, that their family court problems are over. This is a very big misconception. In many cases, the parties spend more time in court on post-judgment issues than they did in the divorce case. Most post-divorce issues that require court intervention for a resolution involve changes in circumstances of either party or their children. The common post-judgment motions are to request a reduction or increase in child support, or to request a termination or decrease in alimony.In post-judgment applications, the parties have to submit revised CIS's, their last three pay stubs, and their recent tax returns. The court will review these documents and make a determination if any child support or alimony should be terminated, reduced or increased.
Modifying or Terminating Alimony
A person can only modify or terminate alimony if they prove that there is a change in financial circumstances. A typical change of circumstance is a change of employer, reduced salary, termination of employment, health conditions and retirement. An alimony award may be either increased or decreased, based on the requisite showing of changed circumstances. Thus, when changed circumstances affect the dependent's ability to continue to maintain the standard of living as provided for in the original divorce decree or agreement, an increase may be warranted. Conversely, circumstances may render all or a portion of the alimony received inappropriately.
The party seeking the modification must prove a "changed circumstances" to the court. Generally, courts have held that changed circumstances such as a reduction in a party's income, the recipient spouse's cohabitation with a member of the opposite sex in a relationship akin to a marriage, increased earnings by the recipient of the alimony, and receipt of a substantial inheritance by the recipient, are sufficient to re-examine alimony obligations.
The remarriage of a recipient spouse will automatically terminate alimony by statute, N.J.S.A. 2A:34-25, where permanent alimony was awarded.
Modifying or Terminating Child Support
Child support may also be modified, either upwards or downwards. Either parent can make a motion to increase or decrease child support if they can demonstrate a change in financial circumstances. What constitutes a sufficient "change in circumstances" will vary from case to case, and from judge to judge.
Some examples of changed circumstances are: a change in the child's age resulting in an increased need for child support; a change in one parent's employment situation; one parent's receipt of a large inheritance; the emancipation of a child or changes in parenting time. Emancipation can occur upon the child's marriage, by court order or by attainment of an appropriate age. N.J.S.A. 9:17B-3.
College or Post-Secondary Education Expenses
In most circumstances, the privilege of parenthood carries with it the duty to assure that the child receives a good college education. Our courts have held that, in general, financially capable parents should contribute to the higher education of children who are qualified students. In evaluating a party's obligation for contribution toward the cost of higher education, courts will consider the following 12 factors:
A custodial parent(s) may only relocate if he/she has the consent of the former spouse. Alternatively, the relocating spouse must obtain a court order to permit the move. The purpose of the statute is to preserve the rights of the non-custodial parent and the child to maintain and develop their familial relationship. This mutual right of the child and the non-custodial parent is usually achieved by means of a parenting plan. Because the removal of the child from the state may seriously affect the parenting schedule of the non-custodial parent, the courts require the custodial parent to show why the move should be permitted. The custodial parent must show both good faith in making the move and that the relocation will not be contrary to the child's interest. Our Supreme Court has delineated twelve factors that must be considered to determine whether the custodial parent has proven good faith and that the move will not adversely affect the child's interest:
In New Jersey, a separation agreement is any legal document signed by both spouses outlining the terms of the separation. Subjects resolved in a separation agreement can include child support, child custody, debt allocation and asset distribution. Notarizing the document ensures its validity, since there is no such case-type in New Jersey that provides for a "legal separation." Spouses wanting child support during the separation period, however, must file a claim with the New Jersey probation department.
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