When can a child support increase or decrease be made “retroactive” to some date in the past? For instance, if a payer of support has income that increases or decreases from his or her level of income at the time when child support was initially calculated, will the child support adjustment be made effective on the date when the payer’s income level changed, or the date when the motion is filed, or on the date that you appear in Court, or some other date?
In New Jersey, the general rule prohibits the Court from decreasing a payer’s support obligation retroactive beyond the date when a motion requesting a decrease if filed. That means that if you are paying support and suffer a change in circumstances that leaves you unable to pay at the level that was ordered, it is important to file a motion quickly. Any arrears that becomes due because you are unable to pay your obligation fully prior to filing a motion will likely remain your debt.
When circumstances change, however, so that an increase in support is appropriate, for instance, if the person who pays child support has an increase in his or her income, the increased support obligation may be made retroactive to a date prior to the filing date of a motion. This is because the statute prohibiting retroactive decreases in child support was determined to have not been enacted to protect parents from retroactive modifications increasing support obligations where equitable. That is, the Court is free to increase a payer’s child support obligation retroactively, when it finds that is the fairest outcome. That could occur, for instance, if the Court finds that the person paying support began to earn significantly more income, but kept that circumstance hidden from the other party, or if other facts that call fairness into question. In such cases, the Court may align the modification date with the date that the circumstances changed.
In other cases, however, the Court may determine that it is inequitable to increase a support obligation to a retroactive date. There are various fact-specific reasons a Court may find retroactivity to be inequitable.
Whether you provide or receive support, addressing changes in financial circumstances is important at the time that you either know or believe that circumstances have changed. If you have any questions about this topic or wish to discuss a support situation in which you know or believe that your financial circumstances have changed, please contact the attorneys at Ulrichsen Rosen & Freed LLC. We can discuss the law as applied to the specific facts of your case and help you evaluate your personal circumstances.