Your Rights When Life’s Circumstances Change
As part of your divorce, you and your spouse will either work out agreements regarding custody, parenting time and support or a judge might make the decisions for you. Either way, you wound up with an Order which set out how it was going to be going forward. But one of the few certainties in life is that things will change. Sometimes the changes are ones that you can work out together but other times, you might need to return to mediation or to court to sort it out. Whether you work it out or need assistance, however, it is vitally important that you document the changes properly and have a new order entered.
Child Custody and Parenting Time
One of the more common reasons people seek to modify a divorce judgment is to address changes in custody or parenting time. A custodial or non-custodial parent may change jobs or shifts, necessitating a new parenting time schedule be put in place. A custodial parent’s health concerns may make it necessary for minor children to live with the non-custodial parent. As children mature, their needs change and a new schedule or change in custody may be appropriate. In New Jersey, custody and parenting time are never final. They can always be modified in the best interest of the children.
Alimony and Child Support
Like custody and parenting time, child support is also always subject to change. Normally, agreements provide for a review every 2-3 years; however if there is a significant change in economic circumstances or in parenting time or custody, an application to modify prior to the review period can be made. For example, if the non-custodial parent has a significant gain in income, or the custodial parent loses their job due to no fault of their own and can demonstrate good faith but unsuccessful attempts to regain employment at the same level, a change may be appropriate. If overnights with the non-custodial parent increase or the custodial parent can show that the non-custodial parent is not taking the children for the required overnights, a change in support may be ordered.
Alimony payments are seldom permanent anymore, and even when they are labeled as such, can be challenged, amended or discontinued. Alimony typically terminates with the death of either party, as well as the remarriage of the recipient, but can also end if the recipient cohabitates with another person in a marriage-like relationship, or the payor retires at normal retirement age.
New developments in child support and alimony laws have occurred over the last couple of years: if your situation has changed, you should contact an attorney to discuss whether these laws affect you!
As a general rule, divorce judgments or settlement agreements regarding the division of assets or debts cannot be changed. A court typically won’t entertain such a request unless you can demonstrate one of the following:
- Fraud, misrepresentation or other similar wrongful conduct by one of the parties
- Newly discovered evidence (such as of assets or the waste of property that had been hidden)
- A mistake by the court during the divorce proceeding
Contact Our Office
To schedule a free, 30 minute telephone consultation to discuss your concerns, send us an e-mail or call our office at 201-289-8906. All calls and e-mails are returned within 24 hours. We’ll be at your side every step of the way.