Litigants seeking a reduction in these obligations must be aware that an application for a reduction in alimony and child support must prove that a significant chance in circumstances has occurred warranting a modification of support. While one may initially think that the loss of one’s job certainly must constitute a significant change in circumstances, the Court has long held that temporary changes in income do not serve as a basis to modify child support. Thus, a litigant seeking a decrease in alimony due to a recent lay-off will likely be unsuccessful because the Court may consider this a temporary change in income.
The Court also has the power to impute income to a party that they find to be voluntarily unemployed or underemployed. A Court may look to potential employment and earning capacity based on the person’s work history, earning history, occupational qualifications, and educational background.
Given these circumstances, it is imperative that a person seeking a reduction in alimony and child support has proof that they have been actively seeking employment and have been unsuccessful. Copies of job applications, resumes sent to prospective employers, and rejection letters are very helpful in doing so. In addition, a meeting with an Employment Counselor may strengthen your chances of being successful in your application.
In addition, a recent Appellate Decision affirmed a Trial Court’s denial of a modification application based on an alleged decrease in income. In Donnelly v. Donnelly, the applicant was an attorney whose original child support and alimony obligations were based on an income of $185,000.00. The applicant cited a decrease in income as the substantial change in circumstances. Specifically, the applicant stated that he would only earn $50,000.00 in 2007 due to his practice’s deteriorating case load.
The Appellate Division found that the Trial Court correctly focused on the applicant’s lifestyle, as evidenced by the Case Information Statement filed with the Court. The Case Information Statement listed a monthly budget of $11,000, even though the applicant asserted he earned only $100,000.00 per year. Therefore, the Court found that the applicant was not credible. The Court also focused on the fact that the applicant had recently purchased a $58,000.00 Lexus and an $800,000.00 home. The Court found that the applicant was merely seeking to have his children and ex-wife bear the brunt of the luxurious lifestyle. As such, the Appellate Division affirmed the Trial Court’s decision to deny the applicant’s motion.
It goes without saying that the accuracy and reasonableness of your Case Information Statement is of the utmost importance when filing a modification application. As evidenced by the Court’s ruling in Donnelly, an inaccurate CIS may itself be a basis for a denial of your application.
If you are laid off, unemployed, or have experienced a loss in income recently and would like to apply for a reduction in your alimony or child support obligation as a result, you should consult with an experienced divorce attorney immediately.