CAN I GET A CHILD SUPPORT RECALCULATION IF I'M UNEMPLOYED?
I know it's been quite a while since you've heard from me. I had a hectic few months. Between taking a 3 month maternity leave from April to July then returning to two trials and numerous Court hearings, all while working it's been a hectic few months. I'm finally catching up on things and I have some important information for your about a recent change to New Jersey Child Support Laws.
As you may have recalled, even if you earned no income at all, the Court still had to use income for you for child support purposes (this is referred to as imputing income). If you were the parent paying child support, you were not automatically entitled to a calculation immediately upon becoming unemployed. This was true even if you were laid off from your job and not receiving unemployment. On one hand, it made sense because even if you weren’t earning any income, your children still needed to eat and be cared for. However, on the other hand, it led to an accumulation of arrears that, depending on the amount of your support, may have been extremely difficult to pay down quickly.
Up until recently, if you filed an application to recalculate child support based upon your unemployment, many times, the Courts would deny the application determining that the unemployment was a “temporary” change and therefore, doesn’t entitle you to a recalculation. The problem was that the Court, and up until recently, the statute, didn’t specify how long was “temporary.” Many times, it would be months (and possibly a few different applications that were denied) before the Court would finally recalculate your child support. It looked like this:
your child support was continuing to accrue at the previous rate
now you have hundreds / thousands of arrears that you can’t pay because you’re not working
even when the Court finally recalculates child support, they would not modify the arrears
once you start working again, you’re way behind the ball and struggling to keep / catch up
This was a really unfair process to go through. Finally, NJ lawmakers realized this issue and updated the law. Now, the amended statute says that when there is a change in circumstances due to unemployment of the paying party, the party cannot (and the Court should not) consider any application that is filed before the paying party has been unemployed for 90 days. The Court also has the discretion to make any recalculation retroactive to the last date of employment.
This was huge! Although you can accumulate arrears quickly in 90 days, the Courts now have direction on how long unemployment must exist before you’re entitled to a recalculation. Good bye to the days when each individual judge made the call based upon their interpretation of the statute which would lead to different results across the board.
So if you’re unemployed and have been for at least 90 days, file that application to recalculate your child support. Be warned, the Court may require you to provide some proof that you have actually been applying for jobs. Although this isn’t required or prohibited by the statute, I’ve seen judges do this. So beware.
I’ll be in touch soon!
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The contents of this blog entry are provided for informational purposes only. You should consult with an attorney to determine how the law applies to the facts of your particular case. Reading this blog entry does not create an attorney-client relationship with Kelly McGriff Law.