Articles Posted in Alimony/Spousal Support

A New Jersey appellate court has stated a former couple’s equitable distribution of marital assets may not be revisited absent extraordinary circumstances. In an unpublished opinion, a New Jersey couple divorced in 2002 after more than 30 years of marriage. At the time, a mutually agreed upon property settlement agreement (“PSA”) was incorporated into the court’s final judgment of divorce. The PSA required the husband to pay his former wife “limited duration alimony” on a monthly basis until June 2023. The PSA also included a handwritten note that stated alimony payments would terminate if the wife remarried or either party passed away.

In addition to the alimony payment provision, the PSA divided the former couple’s assets equitably between them. In exchange for maintaining ownership of a memorabilia collection and the full vested interest in his pension, the husband agreed to pay his former wife a second monthly payment that was identical to the alimony schedule in both amount and duration, except that the payments were not scheduled to cease upon the death of either party. The wife lived with her boyfriend at the time of the former couple’s divorce.

Continue reading

An Appellate Division case from last year (June 2014) offers some clarity regarding when an alimony payor spouse’s financial setbacks are involuntary as opposed to voluntary or permanent as opposed to temporary. In this particular case, the husband whose reduced salary for more than three years was the result of his efforts to save his failing business was entitled to seek a reduction in his alimony payments. Since this decision occurred in June of last year, New Jersey’s sweeping alimony reform statute was enacted when Governor Christie signed a bill on September 10,2014 that addressed many aspects of alimony, giving guidance to the family bench and bar with respect to such issues as the type of alimony that may be appropriate, as well as the duration of any such alimony. The new legislation also set forth specific factors which a judge must now consider (after September 10, 2014) in deciding a modification application of a payor’s support as occurred in this case.

Michael and Tracy D’Alessandro married in 1985 and separated 22 years later. During the marriage, they had two children. When the couple completed their property settlement agreement in 2009, the husband was a one-half owner of a business, which was valued at the time at $1.25 million, and was receiving a $240,000 annual salary. The wife worked in a school cafeteria and made $15,000 per year.

Continue reading

A husband’s attempt to bring an end to his alimony payments did yield a reduced obligation, but not the complete cessation he sought. It also came at a price after the Appellate Division upheld not only the continuation of alimony but also a trial court award requiring the husband to pay $15,000 of the wife’s attorneys’ fees that she spent defending against his efforts to terminate alimony.

When Robert Clauss married his wife Linda in 1988, she was a ballet dancer who had no college education. When the couple divorced two decades later, the wife was unemployed with no income. The couple reached an agreement on spousal support that called for imputing an income of $30,000 per year to the wife. However, by 2012, the wife had earned her license as a registered nurse and was making $66,000 per year.

Continue reading

Sometimes, a divorcing couple completes their property settlement agreement anticipating one future, only to have a different one unfold after they finalize their divorce. A couple encountering such a situation ultimately required a trial court and the Appellate Division to resolve their alimony dispute. The court decided that nothing in the agreement gave the wife grounds for extending the end date of her receiving alimony, even though the “trigger” event for the start of her alimony did not occur for a period of years, instead of months.

When Stephen Tully and Ann Buscher divorced back in early 2007, their case included a property settlement agreement that called for the husband to pay the wife alimony starting from the time they sold the marital home and running until the end of 2016. The couple, however, ultimately did not vacate the house or list it for sale right away. The wife moved out in 2011, and the husband followed the next year. The house was listed for sale in September 2012.

Continue reading

Just because a retired school administrator had the financial ability to keep paying alimony did not necessarily mean that he should be paying alimony, according to a recent ruling by the Appellate Division. The appeals court revived the husband’s alimony termination request because the lower court failed to consider the wife’s improved lifestyle and failed to account for the fact that the husband was making income payments to the wife through his pension.

The case involved the marriage of Michael Krupinski and his wife, Kathleen. The couple separated in 1988 after 20 years of marriage. At that time, the couple worked out a marital settlement agreement that addressed all issues, including child support, alimony, and equitable distribution of the couple’s marital property. The settlement agreement called for the husband to pay the wife one-third of his pension benefits once he started drawing his pension.

Continue reading

A long-running battle involving a couple who divorced in New Jersey likely ended recently as courts in Florida and Montana wrapped up cases there involving issues related to the couple’s divorce. The rulings forced the husband to return to New Jersey to litigate his claims that the wife mismanaged a trust that the New Jersey court had created as part of the divorce, even though he had moved to Montana.

When Edwin Jonas III and his wife, Linda Jones, divorced, they did so in New Jersey. As part of that court order, the judge determined that the husband owed certain sums in alimony and child support. The court also ordered that several pieces of property that the husband owned be placed into a trust, giving the wife the authority both to sell items in the trust and, if the husband did not pay the alimony and child support amounts, to satisfy those obligations through the proceeds of the sale of the trust assets.

Continue reading

If you’ve been ordered to pay alimony, the law creates a series of hurdles you must clear before a court can modify your alimony payments to a lower amount. One recent case highlights just how difficult it sometimes can be to meet these requirements and obtain relief. In the case of Lax v. Lax, the Appellate Division upheld a trial court’s refusal to lower the former husband’s alimony, even though his income was less than half the amount used to calculate his payments.

The ruling resolved a lengthy battle within the divorce of David and Frances Lax, who were married from 1986 to 2008. When the couple originally divorced, the husband agreed to pay the wife $7,000 per month in permanent alimony. Three years later, the husband went back to court, asking for a reduction in his alimony obligation. In the intervening three years, the husband had suffered a severe financial reversal, leading him to file both personal and business bankruptcies.

Continue reading

An “ANTI-LEPIS” clause in a parties divorce settlement agreement was recently held to be valid and enforceable.

In a recent New Jersey appellate court decision,  a special type of clause that severely limits a person’s ability to later modify certain divorce agreements was, under the specific facts and circumstances in that case, held to be valid. This case involved a litigant who signed such an agreement but still sought a modification. A divorce agreement, commonly known and referred to as a “property settlement agreement” (a “PSA”) or a “marital settlement agreement” (an “MSA”)  can affect your finances and your rights for years after it is signed, so you should always discuss your case with a qualified New Jersey family law attorney.

J.H. and R.J.H. were married in 1998 and divorced in 2012. The wife (J.H.) had graduated high school but never worked during the marriage. The couple had three children together, and disagreements about custody and support created a contentious divorce process. The husband (R.J.H.) filed several Domestic Violence complaints  against his wife (J.H.), eventually resulting in a final restraining order (FRO) against her. When the divorce was settled, R.J.H. obtained primary custody of the kids.

The couple entered into a Property Settlement Agreement (PSA). R.J.H. would pay alimony to J.H., and that alimony would decrease over time until it would eventually end entirely. This appears to have been done in order to give J.H. a chance to transition into the workplace. Since R.J.H. was raising the three children on his own, J.H. would pay child support payments and contribute to the children’s needs. Since J.H. did not have a job at the time, the alimony from R.J.H. and the child support from J.H. were calculated using an imputed income of $15,600 per year for J.H. Continue reading

Obtaining a reduction in your alimony obligation can be difficult. The law requires clear proof that you’ve suffered a sizable enough non-temporary reduction in your income to warrant the reduction or elimination of alimony. The courts refer to this as a “substantial change in circumstance.” New Jersey court rules also require you to file the right paperwork (an application, known as a “Notice of Motion”) in order for the judge even to consider your evidence. One wife’s failure to meet the various requirements led the Appellate Division to uphold a trial judge’s decision denying her motion for an alimony modification.

The case of Bonnie Clark and Anthony Pomponio involved a couple who not only shared a marriage but also ownership of a business, New Jersey Diamond Wheel. When their 19-year marriage fell apart in 2001, the wife filed for divorce. After a lengthy legal process, the trial court gave the wife ownership of the business but ordered her to pay the husband $35,000 in alimony per year. A few months later, the judge dropped the alimony amount to $20,000 per year.

Continue reading

Alimony arrangements can become infuriating when the alimony recipient secretly cohabitates with a new partner. This often results in one of two untenable situations: The alimony recipient may be using their alimony disbursements to financially support their new paramour; or the alimony recipient may be receiving cash payments of financial support from the new paramour, while concealing significant changes in finances.

Cohabitation is an area where divorce and dissolution becomes exceptionally messy. The obligor (person making alimony payments) sometimes hires a private investigator to monitor the alimony recipient and try to prove cohabitation. If cohabitation is discovered, the obligor may follow up by trying to discern the financial changes that result from the new cohabitation arrangement. Cohabitation can be hard to prove, because a wily alimony recipient might keep their new financial arrangements “off the books” in order to continue to receive alimony checks.

The evidence often yields an incomplete picture of the situation, which is then used to persuade a judge that cohabitation is occurring and an alimony modification is warranted. But a second problem arises because judges traditionally wield vast discretion in defining cohabitation, thus making alimony modification outcomes hard to predict. Continue reading

Contact Information