My spouse and I were divorced several years ago. How can I get the court to reduce the amount of permanent alimony that I am required to pay?
You can file a motion for modification of your alimony obligation based upon “changed circumstances”. You will need to show that the change is continuing (e.g.- not merely a temporary situation) and that it is not something that was taken into consideration in your marital separation agreement or the trial court’s final judgment of divorce. As the obligor spouse, you have the burden of proving your case through records such as tax returns, pay stubs, and other documentation. “Temporary unemployment” is usually less than a period of 3 months. You may have to wait at least 3 months from suffering your unemployment before the “temporary” unemployment may become sufficient to qualify you for a modification or termination of your alimony obligation.
What changes in circumstances do the courts consider in reducing alimony?
Examples of a reduction in income based upon a change in circumstances include disability, long-term illness, forced retirement, failure of a business, or permanent lay-off. It is important to note that a reduction in income must not be the result of voluntary underemployment or unemployment. In other words, an obligor spouse cannot stop working or take a lower-paying job simply to reduce an alimony obligation.
What actions on the part of the receiving spouse can result in a reduction in alimony?
Even if the obligor spouse’s situation has not changed since the divorce, it may still be possible to reduce or end alimony based upon a change in the receiving spouse’s circumstances. This can include remarriage, cohabitation, increased income, and other factors that serve to reduce his or her need for alimony payments.
If I ask for a reduction in alimony, is it possible for my former spouse to end up getting even more alimony?
Yes, if he or she also files a cross motion to modify (increase) and the court finds in his or her favor. There are several circumstances that can cause a court to increase the alimony payments that are required to be made by an obligor spouse. Some of these circumstances include a rise in the cost of living, an increase in the obligor spouse’s income, or a decrease in the receiving spouse’s income.
I have heard that there was a big change in the law concerning alimony recently. Will this help reduce my alimony?
Changes to New Jersey Statutes Annotated § 2A:34-23 went into effect in September 2014. Although this was a substantial change from the previous law concerning alimony (including a 20-year threshold for the length of your marriage before a dependent spouse may now receive the equivalent of what was previously referred to as “permanent alimony”, (now referred to as “open durational alimony” under the new alimony reform statute) on alimony payments in most cases and a provision by which an absence of cohabitation can no longer be found solely on the grounds of separate residences), the law does not apply retroactively to divorces that became final prior to its effective date (9/10/14).
How can I find out more about reducing my alimony payments?
If you are the payor spouse and you believe that you may be entitled to a reduction in your alimony obligation based upon a change in circumstances, or if you are the dependent spouse who receives alimony and believe your ex-spouse’s application for a reduction or termination is not fair or warranted, or you will suffer economic harm if your alimony is reduced or terminated, you should speak to a New Jersey divorce attorney who is experienced in this area of the law. To schedule an appointment with a member of the Goldstein Law Group legal team, call us at 732-967-6777. Please be prepared to discuss the particulars of your case at your appointment, including your current alimony obligation, your income, and any evidence you have concerning the change in circumstances that you believe are relevant to the pursuit or defense of an application for a reduction in alimony payments.
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