Bowens v. Bowens – Reduce Alimony and Child Support On Changed Circumstances

Bowens v. Bowens Docket No. A-4081-18T2   ——- Decided March 6, 2020

Submitted by New Jersey Family Law Firm, Hark and Hark.

In a recent unpublished decision, the Appellate Division reviewed a denial of a post-judgment matrimonial motion to reduce alimony and child support on changed circumstances related to the party seeking to reduce his child support obligation due to being suspended from work. This decision is based upon the longstanding “Lepis” evaluation of the particular facts and circumstances of your life changes.

In Bowens, the plaintiff filed a motion to reduce his alimony and child support based on changed circumstances. Plaintiff had been a probation officer but was suspended from his job in 2017 due to an altercation with a parolee. Based on that incident, plaintiff realized he would likely be terminated from his job. Therefore, plaintiff elected to resign his position to preserve his pension.

Plaintiff’s income subsequent to his resignation decreased to half the salary he earned at the time of the amended judgment of divorce. Plaintiff claimed he applied for a number of jobs electronically but was unable to find work except as a commercial bus driver.

The Trial Judge denied plaintiff’s motion to modify his support obligations, concluding that plaintiff engaged in “reckless conduct” causing him to lose his probation officer position.  The Judge found that the plaintiff worked in the position for decades and knew an altercation would result in adverse job action.  The Judge determined plaintiff acted in disregard to the needs of his ex-wife and son. The Judge also found that plaintiff’s situation was temporary, and he failed to demonstrate reasonable efforts to locate other work.

The Appellate Division upheld the trial judge’s decision for plaintiff’s failure to demonstrate the requisite “Lepis” voluntary changed circumstances.

This decision is important for those jobs in which a suspension is a possibility, for instance, police, fire fighters, security guards, parole officers, nurses, doctors, lawyers, corrections officers and more.  This decision could mean that if you are suspended or lose your position because of your own conduct, you may be forced to continue to pay alimony and child support at a rate you cannot afford due to loss in income.  Furthermore, you also have to demonstrate significant non-temporary change in circumstances to receive a modification in child support or alimony.  This means that when you lose your job, you must partake in a rigorous and lengthy job search to get employment that would generate income comparable to your previous job.

At Hark & Hark, we help parents with divorce, custody, domestic violence, child support, alimony issues and more.  Modification in child support and alimony are some of the most difficult motions to be successful.  If you believe your circumstances warrant either an increase or a decrease or termination of child support or alimony, contact us immediately.

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Criminal Civil Lawyer

Jeffrey Hark is a New Jersey Civil and Criminal Lawyer.

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