Divorce FAQ's

Increasing Support Based on Increased Earnings, Financial Windfalls and a Parent’s “Good Fortune”

1. My former husband is making boatloads of money now. During our marriage he was only making modest money because he was too busy “chasing skirts.” Can I take him back into court and request an increase in my child support and alimony payments?

There are endless situations when it may be advisable to file a motion to increase child support or alimony when the payor’s circumstances have significantly improved as a result of a financial windfall or substantially increased earnings. The leading case on this issue is Zazzo v. Zazzo, 245 N.J. Super. 124 (App. Div. 1990). Here, the court held that children are entitled to have their “needs” satisfied in accord with the current standard of living of both parents, which may reflect an increase in parental good fortune.

In summary, if your former husband is earning substantial more income since the date when the divorce was put through, then you have a very good chance of obtaining more support. See, Lanza v. Lanza, 268 N.J. Super. 603 (Ch. Div. 1993); (the father’s increased post-judgment earnings constituted “good fortune” to which the children were entitled to share.); Isaacson v. Isaacson, 348 N.J. 560 (App.  Div. 2002), certif. denied, 174 N.J. 364 (2002).

2. My former husband recently won a mega-personal injury lawsuit. Can I now file a motion to try to obtain more alimony and child support?

Yes, you certainly has strong grounds to have an increase in your alimony and child support payments. Illustrative is the case of Cleveland v. Cleveland, 249 N.J. Super 96 (App. Div. 1991). Here the defendant-mother filed a motion for an increase in child support because her former husband just received a substantial personal injury lawsuit settlement. The plaintiff-husband argued to the judge that these monies should not be considered for support purposes because they were uniquely personal as compensation for his injuries. The family court disagreed and it held that the plaintiff’s income from all sources should be considered for support purposes. Thus, the wife was able to have her support payments increased, and she in effect “got a piece of the action” of the PI lawsuit. Thereafter, the Appellate Division affirmed the case.

3. I am getting soaked by paying my wife such high child support and alimony payments. She just recently obtained a rather large inheritance. Can I now file a motion to reduce my child support and alimony on these grounds?

Yes, you have a reasonable case to have your support payments reduced if your wife has now received a substantial inheritance. An interesting case is Stamberg v. Stamberg, 302 N.J. Super. 35 (App. Div. 1997). Here, the court held that the wife’s significant inheritance should be considered by the court in connection with a modification of support application. See alsoAronson v. Aronson, 245 N.J. Super. 354 (App. Div. 1991); (a former wife’s inheritance must be considered in a motion to reduce support.); Weitzman v. Weitzman, 228 N.J. Super 346 certif. den. 114 N.J. 505 (1989); (father’s post-divorce inheritance to be shared with children and mother and it could be used to calculate child support).

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