Alimony is also known as spousal support. It is money that an ex-spouse regularly pays to the other if he or she was financially dependent on the paying spouse during the marriage. In New Jersey, any type of alimony may be modified upon motion to the court if a former spouse's financial situation changes significantly. At Goldstein Law Group, our family law attorneys can help individuals throughout Monmouth County and all other counties in New Jersey request an alimony modification, a termination of alimony, or defend against one of these applications to modify or terminate by alimony requested by a former spouse.Justifications for Modifying Alimony
It is common for former spouses to experience substantial changes in their lifestyle or work after a divorce. At some point, a spouse who pays alimony may lose his or her job. Or the spouse who receives alimony may remarry or get a raise. Other events that can be considered substantial changes include illness, disability (short term or long term), the loss of a home, cohabitation with another person, employment, or an increase in the cost of living. When faced with a dramatic (known as a “substantial change in circumstance”, you can ask your attorney to file a motion for alimony modification or termination.
The court generally looks at the needs of the ex-spouse receiving alimony, the ability of the ex-spouse receiving alimony to meet his or her own needs, and the paying ex-spouse's ability to maintain the marital lifestyle of the ex-spouse. Any changes in circumstances that are the basis for the motion must be ongoing and substantial. The court will not modify support if the change (economically) is small and/or temporary. For example, if your ex-spouse dates someone for six months, this is not likely to be a good basis for asking for a modification of alimony, even if the new romantic interest is very wealthy. However, if the ex-spouse has lived with a wealthy person for a few years and the relationship is serious, this might be a basis for a modification if that person is deriving an economic benefit from that relationship.
One common justification for alimony modification is a significant increase in the income of the spouse receiving alimony. If the income goes up only a small amount and the ex-spouse receiving alimony still does not have the same marital standard of living, the judge probably will not reduce payments.
Another common justification for alimony modification is a paying ex-spouse's decrease in income. However, a paying spouse cannot quit his or her job to avoid alimony. The paying ex-spouse will have to submit not only proof of income based on job loss or a change in pay, but also proof of diligent, good faith efforts to find work that has a similar income.
Another common justification for modification of alimony is retirement. While everyone is entitled to retire, at some point in our lives, when there is a support obligation to a dependent spouse, the paying ex-spouse’s circumstances surrounding the retirement decision are scrutinized by the court to ensure the age and timing of the retirement is “reasonable”. That is, a healthy, able bodied paying ex-spouse could not simply say that he or she thinks they’ve work long enough and hard enough and wants to retire say, at age 55. If that person has an alimony obligation and cannot otherwise pay it from his or her other passive income (i.e., not from working but from investment income, etc.) the court will NOT consider that retirement reasonable and will NOT reduce or terminate the alimony obligation. Under the new alimony reform statute enacted and effective in September 2014, it provided the family bench and bar with some indicia of what age would be considered a “reasonable” age for someone to retire and be entitled to have his or her alimony obligation reduced or terminated? That age, generally, is age 67. It is however, a rebuttable position, and is still highly fact sensitive.
In some cases, if a supported spouse's cost of living has increased substantially, the court will hear a motion for modification to increase support. Sometimes this issue, a cost-of-living-adjustment, is factored into the initial alimony order.
In some cases, the original divorce settlement agreement includes provisions about modification. The parties may agree that modification will be necessary under certain circumstances, or they may agree that there will be no modifications in the future (this is known as an “anti-lepis” provision; Caveat to all: Be VERY careful if you are being asked to consider such a clause in your settlement agreement. The ramifications and consequences can have a profound effect on the parties’ rights if such a provision is included. Of course, how good or bad such a provision may be is dependent upon whether you are the paying spouse or the receiving spouse.Discuss Your Divorce Proceeding with a Monmouth County Attorney
If you want to request an alimony modification or termination of your alimony or, if you are faced with having to try and prevent your ex- spouse from terminating or modifying the alimony you receive in the Monmouth County Family Court or the surrounding area, you should consult a divorce lawyer who is familiar with these matters. At Goldstein Law Group, we run a sophisticated family law practice from our main office in Old Bridge, New Jersey. We also serve clients in communities such as Rumson, Freehold, and Colts Neck, as well as throughout Middlesex County. Contact us for a consultation at 732-967-6777 or via our online form.