New Jersey Alimony Reform’s Effect on Spousal Support Payments

Money fanI lost my job. Can I stop paying alimony to my ex?

Since September 10, 2014, New Jersey residents whose marriage lasted less than 20 years typically may not be required to pay alimony for a period that is longer than the length of the marriage, absent specifically enumerated special circumstances. The Alimony Reform Act of 2014 created this durational cap for marriages that ended after the law was signed by the governor. For couples whose final judgment of divorce was granted prior to this time, there must be a legitimate reason, such as a job loss by the payer, a significant increase in the income and/or  wealth of the payee, disability,  or cohabitation by the recipient, for a New Jersey court to alter a spousal support award. Most importantly, a New Jersey court may not revise an alimony order if a former couple’s judgment of divorce specifically addressed alimony adjustments in advance.

Under the new law, judges in New Jersey are provided with the authority to order a temporary modification or termination of alimony payments based on an alimony payer’s current financial circumstances. Additionally, the Act now requires a family court judge to investigate whether an unemployed payer has experienced a change in circumstances after 90 days without a job.  In the past, there was no specific duration of unemployment that the payer had to suffer before he or she might be entitled to a reduction or modification of his or her alimony obligation.  The range of time, we’ve seen vary, from a few months of trying unsuccessfully to find a new job,  all the way up to eighteen months – before some judges would finally reduce, modify or suspend the payer’s alimony obligation.  The new law give us a definitive timeframe – 90 days!  While not automatic, as it is subject to the facts of the case and the level of diligence and good faith in pursuing alternatate employment, the new law dues give us this one significant parameter to guide us.

Regardless of the outcome of a payer’s spousal support modification request, written findings must be provided by a judge when an alimony modification request is decided upon. Such a requirement makes it more difficult for a decision to be rendered without a legal basis.

Before the Alimony Reform Act was signed, a New Jersey judge had the discretion to determine what constituted a change in circumstances. Now, there are a number of factors that a judge must examine when reviewing such a request. Each factor is enumerated in the law. For example, when a former spouse (who was not self-employed) files an alimony modification or termination request, a court is obligated to consider the reasons for the individual’s loss in income, the payer’s efforts to obtain another job, any severance benefits, each party’s health, and other factors. In situations when a spousal support payer was self-employed, an application to modify or terminate spousal support must provide an analysis of the economic and non-economic benefits derived from the business.   The courts are more suspect of the true income of a self employed person, as he or she has greater ability to distort one’s true income!

My kids told me my ex has a new partner. Does this have an effect on my spousal support payments?

The Alimony Reform Act has significantly altered the definition of a supportive relationship that could merit the modification or termination of an alimony award. To illustrate, the law now states that a couple is not even required to be living in the same household to be considered “cohabiting”. Despite this, engaging in a supportive relationship is only one factor a New Jersey family judge is required to analyze when considering an alimony payer’s request to alter or amend his or her spousal support obligation based on cohabitation. A seasoned family law lawyer can explain the law in greater detail.   If you are concerned that your support may be modified or terminated because of potential cohabitation, or if you are the payer of alimony and suspect that your former spouse is cohabitating with a significant other, you should consult with one of the attoneys at Goldstein Law Group to discuss your options.

If you have questions about modifying or terminating your alimony obligation, or preserving your right to receive alimony  in New Jersey, the skillful family law lawyers at Goldstein Law Group are available to discuss your circumstances and advise you about the legal options that are available. To speak with a knowledgeable and hardworking family law advocate today, call Goldstein Law Group at 732-967-6777 or contact us through our website.

More Blog Posts:

How is my Child Support Obligation Calculated in New Jersey?, April 28, 2015, New Jersey Divorce Lawyers Blog

Will I be Required to Pay Spousal Support (ALIMONY) After My New Jersey Divorce?, April 27, 2015, New Jersey Divorce Lawyers Blog

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