The term "final judgment of divorce" implies a sense of permanence, but the courts do recognize that divorce agreements may need to be changed, or modified under certain circumstances. For example, a spouse incurs a permanent injury and is reduced to working part time, making it difficult for him to keep up with the child support payments. In this case, he may need to request for a reduction of the payment amount, at least on a temporary basis. Another common example is when parents need to modify a custody agreement due to one parent moving out of state. In addition to modifying the parenting plan, there may be changes to alimony and child support, if the recipient parent is moving in order to accept a higher paying job.
While there are many reasons to change a divorce agreement, it's essential that you have legal grounds for doing so. What counts as valid grounds varies on the type of modification you're seeking, so you should discuss your situation with an attorney before filing a motion. In most cases, modifications pertain to domestic support payments in the form of alimony or child support. However, there are specific situations within these categories that may or may not be governed by existing laws. There is, for example, a definitive law for the termination of alimony payments should the recipient spouse remarry. On the other hand, if the recipient spouse starts living with a new partner, this is not valid grounds for terminating alimony. It is, however, grounds on which the paying spouse can ask for a reduction in the payment amount. The court will make a determination after considering the new partner's financial contributions to the household, and towards the recipient spouse's living expenses.
The laws are even more complicated when it comes to child support. Parents should include provisions in their divorce agreements for when, or under what circumstances child support will end. Parents should also specify how to pay for college expenses such as tuition, housing and transportation. If these things are not specified in the agreement, the paying spouse will need to file a motion with legal grounds for why child support should be terminated or modified. The grounds typically refer to the child turning 18, at which point he or she is no longer entitled to financial support from the parent. The child can, however, still request assistance for college expenses. Minors — children under 18 — can also be emancipated under certain circumstances, including entering the armed forces and getting married.
If you believe there is good reason to ask for a modification of your divorce order, please speak with the attorneys of Villani & DeLuca, P.C. Our family law attorneys have extensive experience with modification request hearings in the New Jersey family courts. They will be happy to advise you of you of your rights and legal options, including alternative arrangements that may be in the best interests of both you and your children.