One of the most common questions that any divorce attorney will inevitably hear is “can my [spouse’s] child support obligation be modified?” The prevailing case law in New Jersey since 1980 is that child support obligations are modifiable based on a substantial change in circumstances. Specifically, if either party can show that a substantial change of circumstances has occurred since the last time support was calculated, a Court may either increase or decrease the obligor’s child support obligation as the situation dictates.
However, in 1995, the Court held in Doring v. Doring that child support orders are subject to review by a Court every three years. In this decision, the Court relied upon a statue which required this automatic three year review. This decision enabled a party who is unable to show that a substantial change in circumstances to apply for a recalculation of child support simply because three years has passed since child support was calculated.
A Trial Court decision addressed the application of the Doring v. Doring decision today and, in a published decision, held that child support orders are not, in fact, subject to automatic court reviews every three years. The Court reasoned that the statue upon which the Doring v. Doring decision was based was amended in 1998, years after the Doring decision. The statute now states that child support orders should be reviewed at least once every three years, unless the State has devleoped an automated cost-of living adjustment program for child support payments. Rule 5:6B was also adopted in 1998, which requires that all child support orders to be adjusted every to years to reflect the cost of living.
Because New Jersey Child Support Orders are subject to cost of living adjustments every two years, the automatic three-year review set forth in Doring v. Doring is no longer necessary or appropriate.