No Post-Judgment Modification Of Alimony Without Changed Circumstances
- August 25, 2014
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In the recent Appellate Case, Youngblood v. Youngblood, appealed out of Sussex County, the Plaintiff appealed from a post-judgment modification Court Order that affected his alimony and child support obligations and required him to obtain health insurance for his son. The Appellate Court affirmed the decision of the Family Court because the Plaintiff was unable to prove changed circumstances. The parties in this case were married in 1985 and two sons were born of this marriage. One of these sons was still unemancipated at the time of this action. The Plaintiff filed for divorce in 2010 and a trial proceeded on the issues of alimony and child support. The Family Court judge rendered a written statement of the reasons for his decision and in his statement he reviewed all of the statutory factors applicable to alimony according to N.J.S.A. 2A:34-23(b). With specific regard to his income, the Plaintiff argued that his business peaked in the previous five years but suffered extreme losses in 2008 after he lost two of his most important customers. The judge averaged out his income over two of the median years to best reflect a more accurate income figure. In the final divorce judgment the judge ordered the Plaintiff to pay permanent alimony of $2,500 a month and $185 a week in child support. In 2012, the Plaintiff filed a Motion to reduce his alimony and child support obligations. The Defendant responded with a Cross-Motion requesting that the Plaintiff provide health insurance for their son. The judge denied the Plaintiff’s Motion and granted the Defendant’s relief. The Plaintiff then filed a Motion for reconsideration. The Appellate Court affirmed the decision of the Family Court holding that changed circumstances is the standard with which any modification of child support and alimony must be evaluated. Jacoby v. Jacoby, 427 N.J. Super. 109, 116 (App. Div. 2012); Larbig v. Larbig, 384 N.J. Super. 17, 21 (App. Div. 2006). A change in circumstances can arise from various factors, including a reduction of income that occurs after the judgment of divorce. Lepis v. Lepis, 83 N.J. 139, 151 (1980). The Family Court must also consider whether the “changed circumstances have substantially impaired the [spouse’s] ability to support himself or herself,” however, “courts have consistently rejected requests for modification based upon circumstances which are only temporary. Lepis, 83 N.J. at 151. The Plaintiff’s argument that he suffered a change in circumstances relies on the premise that the Family Court erred in computing his income, but the Plaintiff did not appeal from that judgment. According to the court, reconsideration is a “matter within the sound discretion of the Court, to be exercised in the interest of justice.” D’Atria v. D’Atria, 242 N.J. Super. 392, 401 (Ch. Div. 1990). In sum, the Appellate Division found that the Plaintiff’s argument that the Family Court judge erred in his decision were without merit because he did not provide any evidence before the motion judge that a change in circumstances since the rendering of the final divorce judgment “substantially impaired the ability to support himself.” If you anticipate that you may want to petition the court for a post-judgment modification of your alimony or child support obligation it is imperative that you seek out the advice of an experienced attorney before moving forward. For more information about post-judgment modification, alimony, divorce, child support, or other family law matters in New Jersey visit DarlingFirm.com. This blog is for informational purposes and in no way is intended to replace the advice of an attorney.