Even though a matrimonial case may be completed with a Final Judgment and/or Settlement Agreement, there may be a need substantively to engage lawyer services on an after-divorce basis. Some of the common forms of post-divorce judgment applications for relief include the following:
- Enforcement applications: Unfortunately, there are occasions when a former spouse defaults on an obligation contained in their Final Judgment or Settlement Agreement. They may fail to pay the proper amount of spousal or child support. Sometimes parents wrongfully withhold parenting time or fail to exercise the time that is allotted to them on a habitual basis. In such cases, a motion is required to enforce the terms or the intent established by the parties. In addition to seeking compliance with the terms of the Judgment, a party can attempt to be made whole by requesting that the former spouse be sanctioned by suspension of a professional or government issued license, be subject to wage garnishment or be placed on bench warrant status in the event of future violations. In addition, the spouse victimized by the default can request that they be reimbursed for the counsel fees expended in obtaining compliance.
- Modification applications: Certain aspects of a matrimonial judgment or settlement are subject to modification based on changed circumstances. Common areas subject to modification include the payment of spousal and child support as well as custody and parenting time. The division of marital property is not subject to changed circumstances absent fraud. Modification may be called for where the parties have experienced a material change in circumstances. A downward modification may be called upon where the payor experiences reduced income or loss of employment as well as an increase in the support recipient’s income which results in reduced need. Some modification applications result from the dependent spouse’s cohabitation with another person in which case the spousal support may be terminated, suspended, or modified depending on the particular facts of the case. Changes in the parenting and custodial schedule may require change where the children age and communicate a preference or where preserving the best interests of a child require same. Once common parenting time modification concerns the relocation of a child’s residence from the State of New Jersey to elsewhere. A party’s request for modification will result in a determination as to whether a prima-facie showing has been made for changed circumstances. If made, the Court will permit post judgment paper discovery and the ability to take depositions which will afterward result in a testimonial plenary hearing on the merits of the application.
The party filing a post-divorce judgment application for relief will be required to submit the document he or she relies on for enforcement or modification. In economic modification circumstances, the moving party will be required to submit their current and past case information statements as well as an analysis as to how the changed circumstances impair the ability to pay or no longer make if fair and reasonable. In the non-economic setting, a party will need to show how the current circumstance no longer serves the best interests of a child.