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.
Between the time of the couple’s divorce and the husband’s retirement, the husband furthered his education and eventually advanced from a teaching position to a school administration position, generating a substantial increase in his salary. The husband retired in 2010, by which time he had accumulated 41 years of public employment service time. The salary upon which the husband’s pension was based — $132,000 – was nearly three times the $45,000 income he was making when he and the wife separated.
When the husband began drawing his pension, he received $5,929 and the ex-wife $1,871 per month. During this entire time, the husband was also paying permanent alimony to the wife. Shortly after starting to draw his pension, the husband asked the court to terminate his alimony obligation. The trial court refused, concluding that the husband remained financially capable of paying his alimony obligation.
On appeal, however, the husband prevailed. The appeals court explained that, while the trial court was correct to investigate and decide whether or not the husband was able to continue paying alimony, this was only part of the required analysis. The lower court was also required to determine whether or not the wife, since she began receiving her portion of the husband’s pension, experienced such an improvement in her financial situation that she no longer required alimony in order to maintain the sort of lifestyle she enjoyed during the couple’s marriage.
Additionally, the appeals court pointed out that the trial court failed to factor in the additional income the wife was receiving as a result of her portion of the pension payments, since this income also potentially affected the alimony analysis. The husband’s pension was the result of several decades of service, a portion of which occurred during the marriage and was equitably distributed under the terms of the settlement agreement. However, the pension was also the result of the husband’s post-divorce efforts, including obtaining additional educational degrees and job promotions that raised his salary, and this fraction of the wife’s monthly $1,871 payment was income, not an equitable distribution. This income payment should have been considered in the husband’s alimony termination request.
Calculating the proper amount of alimony, seeking an appropriate change in alimony, or defending an application by your former spouse to terminate or reduce your alimony can be extremely complicated, involving numerous factors. To make sure you are paying only what you should, or receiving what you’re entitled to receive, you need experienced legal counsel who is familiar with all these elements of alimony law. For skilled, determined representation in your alimony matter, reach out to the New Jersey family law attorneys of Goldstein Law Group. Contact us online or by calling 732-967-6777 to request a confidential consultation.
More blog posts:
New Jersey Appeals Court Recognizes That Some Divorce Agreements Are Not Readily Open to Modification, New Jersey Divorce Lawyers Blog, Dec. 10, 2014
Termination of Alimony Payments in New Jersey, New Jersey Divorce Lawyers Blog, Aug. 27, 2014