In a just-decided case (Bello-Englesbe v. Englesbe, decided June 5, 2009), a New Jersey appeals court rejected a father’s request to reduce child support based on terms of his Marital Settlement Agreement (MSA). The two judge panel ruled that the MSA failed to establish an income baseline from which an application for relief from a support obligation could be measured.

The significance of this ruling is that courts will not presuppose starting points if the divorcing parties do not establish them in their MSA. Attorneys and clients should ensure that such details are addressed and quantified if necessary, to includes parenting schedules, income and earning capacity assumptions, pension division formulas, life insurance provisions, college contribution formulas and so forth.

As this case demonstrates, it pays to "get it right" the first time to avoid future problems occasioned by insufficient explanation or lack of attention to detail.