Changed circumstances after divorce matter when it comes to many things. Although the paperwork reads “Final Judgment of Divorce,” the court considers modifications. However, your burden becomes demonstrating the reasons warranting the adjustments.
In many cases, the parties themselves sign agreements that the court adopts as part of the divorce. However, life comes with its share of changes. For example, custody and parenting time present issues when a parent relocates. Likewise, parenting or visitation schedules may not work out as planned.
For starters, what about financial changes? What happens when one of the parties loses a job or takes a lower-paying one? How will that impact alimony and/or child support payments? Additionally, the discovery of hidden assets sounds like reason enough to return back to court and seek adjustments to equitable distribution.
The bottom line comes down often comes to the court’s determination regarding changed circumstances. Notably, when it comes to alimony, NJSA 2A:34-23 says it clearly. According to the statute, orders “may be revised and altered by the court from time to time as circumstances may require.”
Earlier this month, the New Jersey Appellate Division ruled on a case where a father sought a reduction in both alimony and child support. As might be expected, he alleged changed circumstances. However, that’s not to say the trial court or appeals court agreed.
Father Claimed Changed Circumstances After Divorce
In the first place, you should know that the judiciary marked New Jersey Appellate Division’s opinion in this matter as unpublished. This means that the ruling does not represent new law. However, it proves a point, and the courts consider it binding on the parties. Notably, neither one of the formerly married couple retained legal counsel for their appeal.
According to the court’s recitation of the facts, the parties divorced on October 2, 2012. The husband/father filed for the divorce, making him the plaintiff in the legal action. When the parties appeared before the judge, the husband and wife placed an oral settlement agreement on the record. Subsequently, the family court adopted the agreement into divorce papers executed on March 1, 2013.
More than five years later, the father filed a motion with the court. He alleged a change in circumstances, which he said warranted a reduction in child support and alimony. At the time of the divorce, the father was a probation officer. When he made the request for the modification, the father’s job had changed to a commercial bus driver. Consequently, the father cited a reduction in half of his wages in support of lowering his payments.
In consideration, the court first looked at the reason the father changed jobs. According to the record, the plaintiff’s employer suspended him after he, and a parolee had an altercation. Ultimately, the father resigned to protect his pension. Apparently, he sensed he would be terminated for the alternation.
Court Evaluated Change in Employment
At the trial court level, the judge seemingly admonished the plaintiff for “reckless conduct.” After all, the father worked in his position for decades and “was well aware that an altercation with a parolee could result in an adverse job action.”
As far as the court was concerned, this meant the plaintiff “acted in disregard of [the] needs [of his ex-wife and son] when he made the decision that he did,” causing him to resign from his high earning job.”
Taking it a step further, the judge termed the plaintiff’s then current situation as “temporary in nature.” Additionally, the court disagreed that the plaintiff demonstrated “reasonable efforts to locate other work.” In a sense, any change in circumstances appeared self-created.
Based on the preceding, the trial court denied the father’s application for a reduction in payments. Upon review, the New Jersey Appellate Division agreed. Since there was no abuse of discretion in the denial of the request, the lower court’s decision was affirmed.
Courts routinely entertain requests for modifications of existing agreements in family court. Changed circumstances after divorce sometimes warrant adjustments to financial aspects of the divorce. Of course, they sometimes suggest revisions to custody and parenting time schedules.
At the Law Offices of Sam Stoia, we sit down with clients to review the feasibility of returning to court. In the event you have such concerns, we offer a one-hour consultation at no cost. Please call us to schedule an appointment.