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Can I change a divorce order years after the divorce?

Change is a rule of life. We have to be adaptable to change. When it comes to court rulings, however, change can be a difficult thing.

Such was the status of divorce decrees years ago when the court’s rulings were difficult to change. However, in 1980, the New Jersey Supreme Court ruled that courts not only must determine custodial support, child support and related orders, but also can revise these order under special circumstances.

Are their needs being met?

The court will first consider whether the marital standard of living is being maintained. Are the needs of the spouse and children being met? Are the physical and social position of the spouse and children satisfactory? Is the dependent spouse working to support themselves?

If a former spouse files to modify a support order, the spouse will have to prove how circumstances have changed and impaired the ability of maintaining the comparable standard of living attained during the marriage. The court will look to see if the circumstances are permanent, substantial and unanticipated.

The court tends to deny requests if a large payment has already been made, or if the changing circumstances are temporary or haven’t yet occurred.

Changing circumstances

If the court decides that the change is warranted, the next step is to determine if the supporting spouse has the ability to change the payments.

Here are a few examples of changing circumstances that lead to a change in support:

  • Increased cost of living
  • Increase or decrease in income
  • Illness or disability
  • Loss of house or apartment
  • New employment by the dependent spouse
  • If the dependent spouse begins cohabitating with someone else
  • Changes in the tax law
  • Increase in children needs

If you want to change your support because you are retiring, the court will look at four other factors:

  • The benefit to the retiring spouse
  • The impact of the reduced support on the child
  • The retiring spouse’s motivation, good faith and whether the retirement was voluntary
  • Any other factors the judge thinks are relevant

The law is complicated. If you are divorced and considering such a move, contact a qualified, experienced attorney to get the best possible advice.

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