Court Standards for Post-Judgment Modification of Alimony and Child Support
- December 31, 2013
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In a recent NJ Appellate Division Case, Cronin v. Cronin, the Court reversed and remanded the decision of the lower court finding that the judge did not make adequate findings of fact and conclusions of law as required by N.J. Court Rule 1:7-4(a) in a case involving a motion for post-judgment modification of alimony and child support. Defendant appealed from two separate court orders issued by the lower Family Court in August 2012 compelling him to pay alimony arrears in the amount of $11,500, authorizing the issuance of a bench warrant should he miss two spousal support payments, and denying his post-judgment application to reduce his alimony and child support obligations. In the case, the Plaintiff cross appealed from the part of the order that denied her application for counsel fees. The parties in this case were married in March of 2003 and became divorced in May of 2011. The parties’ Judgment of Divorce incorporated their settlement agreement which required that the Defendant pay $12,000 per month in alimony for four years and $2,000 a month in child support – both of these obligations were based upon the Defendant’s gross income of $504,000 annually which was his average income from 2005-2007. In 2011, during the divorce proceedings, the Defendant claimed that his earnings had decreased substantially since 2007 and he stated that he could not meet his spousal support or child support obligations. During the hearing, the Plaintiff’s counsel stated that the Defendant was aware of this decrease in salary prior to engaging in negotiations for the marital settlement agreement. The Defendant acknowledged this fact and stated on the record that he was not waiving his right under Lepis v. Lepis to seek a modification of the order later. In 2012, the Defendant had become $11,500 in arrears and the Plaintiff petitioned the court to compel the Defendant to pay his obligation and for counsel fees. The Defendant filed a motion in response seeking to modify his alimony and child support obligation based on changed circumstances. The lower court judge ordered that the Defendant pay the $11,500 within 120 days and denied the Plaintiff’s request for counsel fees. The Appellate Court reversed and remanded this decision because it found that the lower court judge failed to make adequate findings of fact and conclusions of law required by N.J. Court Rule 1:7-4(a). According the Appellate Division, the lower court judge recited the law in his opinion but did not engage in a factual analysis or apply the facts of the case to the law in his legal conclusions. If you anticipate that you will want to petition the court for a post-judgment modification of alimony or child support it is critical that you seek out the advice of an experienced attorney before moving forward. For more information about child custody, parenting time, or other family law matters in New Jersey visit HeatherDarlingLawyer.com. This blog is for informational purposes and in no way intended to replace the advice of an attorney.