Child Support Modifiable in New Jersey
The Courts in New Jersey have made it very clear that issues concerning child support are always reviewable and that child support can be modified upon a showing of a change in circumstances (N.J.S.A. 2A:34-23). It is further important to note that the Supreme Court of New Jersey has specifically stated that child support is the right of the child and not the right of the parent receiving same. Pascale v. Pascale, 140 N.J. 583 (1995). Although child support gets paid to the parent of primary residence in most circumstances, because child support is in place for the sole benefit of the child, it cannot be waived by the parents. This public policy of New Jersey is derived from its parens patriae interest in the welfare of children, which prevents and “prohibits parents from bargaining away the essential rights of their sons and daughters, including the right to be properly supported.” Patetta v. Patetta, 358 N.J. Super. 90 (App. Div. 2003). Furthermore, The Child Support Guidelines, Appendix IX-A, specifically states that “the premise of [the child support guidelines] is that (1) child support is a continuous duty of both parents, (2) children are entitled to share in the current income of both parents, and (3) children should not be the economic victims of divorce or out-of-wedlock birth.”
Moreover, as the parents’ financial circumstances and the child’s needs are both fluid, it is well settled case law, as stated above, that child support obligations are always reviewable and modifiable. Lepis v. Lepis, 83 N.J. 139 (1980). The Supreme Court, in Lepis, states that “while children are entitled to a determination based upon their best interests, both parents have a duty to support them.” Likewise, the courts have historically maintained “the equitable authority to modify child support agreements privately reached between parties.” Conforti v. Guliadis, 128 N.J. 318, 323 (1992). The courts normally applaud and encourage private settlements and agreements and will not disturb them. However, in the context of child support, especially considering the case law above regarding it being the right of the child, the Court will take a deeper look into how the agreement affects the child. This means, that despite an agreement previously to pay less support or even no support at all, the court can modify or completely eradicate the prior agreement.