Divorce brings about countless involuntary changes, but it's also a chance to make some deliberate, long-awaited changes that may have seemed selfish or impractical during the marriage. A career change, for example, may be something you've wanted for a long time. Perhaps you want to switch to a less demanding career that allows you more personal time and freedom. Or, maybe you want to pursue your dreams of becoming a writer, musician, etc., but had to put it off once you had kids. Now that you're living on your own for most of the week, it seems like a great time to go back to school or start from the bottom in the profession of your choice.
The problem for many non-custodial parents are alimony and/or child support obligations, which they may need to pay for many years into the future. Child support is usually the longer obligation, but even alimony payments can go on for a decade or more depending on the length of the marriage and other relevant factors. The courts, of course, do recognize changes in circumstance that may warrant a reduction or suspension of alimony, but a deliberate downgrade in one's income is not normally considered an acceptable reason.
For example, an auto worker who accepts a lower paying job in a different profession may have had little to no choice, since slowing auto sales in recent years have resulted in many factories closing. If he lives in an area where most of the residents worked for that auto plant, there would be very few jobs to go around, and he would be lucky to find any job at all. Hence, an alimony and child support reduction may be in order if he made a good faith attempt to find comparable work, but no such work was available. On the other hand, if he had intentionally quit his job in order to pursue a more interesting, but lower paying job, that may be seen as being deliberately unemployed or underemployed.
Unfortunately, it is a bit of Catch-22 for those who are involved in a support modification request. The obligor feels stuck in an unhappy job situation, which seems like the price for leaving an unhappy marriage. The recipient, however, was awarded a court ordered amount of support, and having that reduced could result in long term or permanent financial hardship. Since there are legitimate concerns on both sides, the courts have to consider whether a support adjustment is fair to both parties. The courts must also determine whether the payor's choice to accept another job is reasonable based on the surrounding circumstances, even if that choice was voluntary. As you can see, support modifications can be quite complicated, which is why it's important to consult an experienced attorney about your rights and legal options. For more information on how to file for an alimony and/or child support modification in New Jersey, please speak with the attorneys of Villani & DeLuca, P.C.