Modification of Child Support

In this economy, you would be surprised to see how many judges are jaded by applications brought by supporting spouses to reduce their support obligations based upon a reduction in income. After all, some judges entertain these applications on their daily docket and oftentimes see supporting spouses who are simply attempting to capitalize on the down economy and lack any actual merit to their cases. This blog post will explore one of the reactions by judges to this type of application; namely, denying the request of the supporting spouse outright without even holding a hearing, taking testimony, and making credibility findings.

Support obligations are always modifiable by the family court upon application of the supporting spouse.  Typically, this type of application requires the supporting spouse to make a threshold prima facie showing that “changed circumstances have substantially impaired the ability to support himself or herself.” Lepis v. Lepis, 83 N.J. 139, 157 (1980). When such a showing is made, the Court must next determine if a plenary hearing is warranted. This is sometimes referred to as the two-step Lepis analysis.


Continue Reading Motions to Reduce Support: When Applications are Denied without a Plenary Hearing, What's Next?

If you’re a regular reader of this blog, you’ve seen many a post about changes in circumstances and modifications of support obligations.  In fact, Apple Sulit-Paralejo in our Atlantic City office recently published a post on the Ferstenfeld decision. The thing is with changed circumstances,  in this economic climate and job market, it is a popular topic for courts and new decisions are being delivered on a fairly frequent basis.

Today’s post is about proving the change in circumstances and stems from the unpublished Appellate Division decision of Romito v. Romito, A-0486-09, decided March 29, 2011. This appeal came from an Essex county trial court decision made after Mr. Romito filed what was at least his second motion to reduce his alimony and child support obligations stemming from a 2002 divorce and property settlement agreement.

Mr. Romito’s application was supported by his Certification attesting to the failure of his remaining businesses and a sworn statement of his ability to earn $52,000/yr working for a friend’s business, similar to what he had previously operated.  It was also supported by a current Case Information Statement and copies of income tax returns.  Part of the relief sought was a hearing pursuant to Lepis v. Lepis, to prove the changed circumstances.

Ms. Romito filed a cross motion in response opposing this application and seeking other forms of economic and additional relief.  Her application was supported by a Certification attesting that she and the children were in desperate financial straits due to Mr. Romito’s failure to pay his support obligations and his unfair competition with her business.  She attested that Mr. Romito owned the business of his friend that he claimed to only work at and that he was concealing income and living a lifestyle inconsistent with his alleged reduced economic circumstances.  It was also supported by her current Case Information Statement, tax returns and proof of expenses that were not paid.

In response, Mr. Romito denied the allegations made in the cross motion and attested that Ms. Romito’s economic problems were of her own doing and stemmed from her inability to profitably run the business.  He proposed that if Ms. Romito would agree to turn the Montclair office over to him, he’d pay her $2,000/month in alimony (still a reduction from the parties’ agreement but more than he’d been paying).


Continue Reading Modifying Support – Proving Changed Circumstances