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Money Matters for Modification

By Snyder & Sarno on May 29, 2015


In many child support cases, the parties are required to report their income to the court, especially if they are seeking a modification of their child support obligation.  It can often be difficult, however, for a court to accurately determine what a party is making.  In the recent case of Tango v. Christen, the New Jersey Appellate Division addressed an issue of miscalculated income for child support purposes. 

In Tango, the parties shared one child.  They agreed in their Property Settlement Agreement that Defendant would pay $256 per week in child support.  In 2013, Defendant’s employer told him, a 64-year-old man, that he would no longer receive a salary and if he did not retire, he would only be paid earned commissions.  He had previously been making nearly $90,000 per year.  Thus, Defendant filed a motion with the court to reduce his child support payments.  Plaintiff alleged that this change was voluntary, but conceded that child support likely had to be recalculated because the child no longer slept overnight at Defendant’s house and her income had increased. 

The trial judge decided to recalculate child support based on the Child Support Guidelines.  She increased Defendant’s support obligation to $318 per week.  The judge listed Defendant’s income as nearly $150,000 per year when there was no basis for doing so.  She ultimately failed to fully determine how she arrived at her child support conclusion.  Though Defendant filed a motion for reconsideration of the calculation, the trial judge denied it.

Thus, on appeal, Defendant renewed his claims that the child support obligation was miscalculated.  The Appellate Division started its analysis by stating that a child support modification is warranted when a party can show changed circumstances.  Lepis v. Lepis, 83 N.J. 139, 157 (1980).  Here, while there were changed circumstances, the trial judge miscalculated Defendant’s income.  Also, in a footnote, the court pointed out that the Guidelines specify how income should be calculated.  In particular, “if child support is calculated after June 30, a judge should ‘use the year-to-date income figure from all documented sources” and multiply that figure by the number of weeks worked to date, which will yield the party’s weekly income.  Thus, the court remanded the case for reconsideration.

If you have questions about your child support obligation or want to modify your child support obligation, call the experienced attorneys at Snyder & Sarno, LLC for help with you case.  Contact us today at (973) 274-5200.    

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