Decline in Business’s Revenue May Trigger Reduction in Alimony with the Right Evidence and Court Forms

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.

Slightly more than a year later, the couple was back in court due to the wife’s alleged failure to pay alimony. At that time, the wife asked for a reduction or elimination of her alimony obligation. The business, she claimed, was her sole source of income, and the income it generated had declined drastically.

The wife had many documents to back up her assertion, including tax returns, credit card statements, and documents summarizing the business’ sales. She also submitted a change in lifestyle spreadsheet and an updated case information statement. The trial judge rejected the wife’s motion.

She appealed this ruling, but to no avail. Her case suffered from both procedural and content problems. New Court Rule 5:5-4 requires a party seeking a modification of alimony to submit to the court not only an updated case information statement (“C.I.S”) >but also all the previous C.I.S. statements. This rule exists so that trial judges have a “complete picture of the finances” of the spouse who is asking the court to reduce an alimony obligation. It allows the judge to make a full comparison of the financial picture that existed when the last support order was entered, as compared with the current economic circumstances which the applicant may now allege have changed substantially enough to warrant the modification of the alimony award.

Clark did not submit any of the previous case information statements. That failure, by itself, was enough to warrant throwing out her motion. However, the Appellate Division went on to point out the substantive deficiencies in her case  as well. To make her case, the wife needed to show that the business’ reduction in income was so severe that it impaired her ability to support herself. She also needed to establish that the changed circumstances were not just a temporary downturn in the business’s profitability. Clark’s evidence, much of which the trial court deemed less than credible, simply was not enough to show that she had experienced a permanent change in circumstances that was significant enough to warrant lowering the amount of alimony.

If you’ve encountered severe financial setbacks, the law may allow you to obtain a reduction in the amount of alimony you owe. To make this happen, however, there are very specific requirements of both court procedure and evidence that you must satisfy in order to obtain your modification. For skilled, knowledgeable assistance with your motion to terminate or modify your alimony obligation or, if you are the recipient of alimony and your former spouse is trying to reduce or terminate the alimony you receive and you need to defend your right to your continued receipt of alimony, contact the New Jersey alimony attorneys at Goldstein Law Group. Contact us online or by calling 732-967-6777 to request a confidential consultation.

More blog posts:

Recent New Jersey Law Clarifies The Definition Of Cohabitation In Alimony Modification Cases, New Jersey Divorce Lawyers Blog, Oct. 6, 2014

Termination of Alimony Payments in New Jersey, New Jersey Divorce Lawyers Blog, Aug. 27, 2014

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