Reopening a New Jersey Divorce Case

Sometimes people become unhappy with the outcome of their divorce and wonder if they can “reopen” their New Jersey divorce case to change child support, alimony or the basic distribution of assets.


The answer to this will depend on the types of changes you would like to make and whether you can show compelling reasons that justify reopening your case.


Even if your divorce was accomplished by settling with your ex-spouse and agreeing on all of the issues between the two of you, and you didn’t end up in court, it’s still important to understand that you must still go to court if you want to change the outcome. This is because although your settlement discussions and decisions were made outside of court, you have to take that agreement to a judge, for his approval and his issue of a final judgement of divorce.


On the other hand, if you and your ex were not able to agree on one or all of the issues and you needed court intervention involving a trial and the submission of evidence in support of your claims the judge would then make the final judgement for divorce.


However your case was handled, if you want to make a change to the outcome of the divorce agreement you will still need to do it in court.


Typical changes requested

People who want to modify the outcome of their divorce case typically ask the court to take another look at one or both of the following:


Support orders. A support order is issued by a judge after trial or a settlement agreement that specifies the amount and duration of child support and alimony. If one spouse experiences a change in their financial situation (for example, the spouse who is required to pay loses their job), that spouse may need to change the amount of child support or alimony specified in the original support order. The spouse responsible for the payments can file a motion to change the amount of child support or alimony payments. However, this request does not amount to reopening the entire case.


Substantially changing the property division or revoking the judgment. If you want to make substantial changes to your divorce agreement, such as dividing assets that were not included in the original agreement, or completely revoke your settlement agreement of divorce judgement, you’ll have to ask the court to reopen your divorce case. This procedure can be quite complicated. In New Jersey, you need to present evidence of one of the following situations in order to persuade a judge to reopen your case:


  • There was a mistake, oversight or excusable neglect during the case. For example, one of the spouse’s pension plans wasn’t included in the divorce agreement.
  • You discovered evidence you didn’t know about during the divorce. For instance you find the true accounting records for the family business.
  • You find out your spouse is guilty of fraud, misrepresentation or other misconduct. An example of this would be, you find out that your spouse diverted income or assets to an offshore account and failed to disclose this to you before, or during, the divorce.
  • The property settlement agreement and/or judgement are void or invalid for technical reasons. This may happen when the agreement was obtained through extreme pressure or coercion, either of these could make the divorce agreement invalid.
  • You are aware of a special reason that would justify your request. New Jersey allows you the opportunity to bring to the court’s attention situations that aren’t limited to the ones explained above. For example, if the terms of the divorce agreement have left you in a dire financial situation, while your spouse has been able to maintain the same lifestyle they had during the marriage, the court may find that this situation justifies considering your request.


At the end of a divorce, especially a difficult and bitter one, many people feel like they “got a raw deal.” The truth is no one really wins in a divorce. Your Northern New Jersey divorce can be very traumatic, and it may take a long time to heal from it. In addition to this, you may have a hard time adjusting to some aspects of life after divorce such as owning fewer assets, dividing income, and living with your children part-time. These are very difficult adjustments for anyone to make. Naturally, you may feel like you’ve “lost.” However, simply feeling upset that you didn’t walk away with everything you wanted will not be enough to convince the court to reopen your case.

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