Are you stuck paying or receiving alimony that doesn’t make sense anymore and ‘wish’ you could change it?
What if it was determined that may be overpaying or not obligated to make alimony payments anymore. What if you are receiving too little and circumstances have changed that you want to explore whether you could be entitled to an increase?
The amount you are paying in alimony may not be carved in stone. When circumstances change for people as time goes on, so can alimony and the amount you are paying or receiving. Depending on your situation and/or that of your former spouse, you may be able to have alimony payments reduced, or even be allowed to stop making payments altogether!
If you’re seeking to have the alimony payments you’re making reduced or stopped, it will be up to you to convince the court that there has been a substantial change in circumstances in your life or that of your ex-spouse that warrants a modification or termination of alimony payments. As discussed below, exploration of what your divorce agreement or trial decision says, or, if it that agreement or trial decision is silent is something you will want to speak with an attorney about to understand the laws and what you may or may not be entitled to. Getting a post-divorce modification to alimony isn’t a simple process because there are many nuanced parts of the law that must be factored in. As a result, it is wise to have the help of our family lawyers to give you an in-depth understanding of New Jersey alimony law.
UNDERSTANDING WHAT CAN CAUSE ALIMONY PAYMENTS TO CHANGE
NJ Statute §2A:34-23 describes when alimony payments may be modified, suspended, or terminated based on various circumstances. Circumstances that may be considered substantial enough to change alimony payments include a drastic change in financial status including but not limited to job loss, job gain, retirement, or perhaps something life altering such as a remarriage, cohabitation or any other material changes in circumstances of either you or your ex-spouse.
But, there are some important qualifiers within these possible reasons for changes to alimony. For example, let’s say you lost your job involuntarily within the last few weeks. Your situation would be considered temporary because of how recent it is and it would be unlikely for a Court to award you a modification of your support (whether you are paying or receiving). The courts want you to hit the pavement and try to find another job commensurate with your skills and ability. While you are doing that, make sure you keep a record of all job applications, interviews, offers, etc. because that stuff is critical should your temporary situation, unfortunately, last long enough that an application would then be appropriate. Of course, the ultimate outcome / result is always in the discretion of the Judge. .
There are many specific stipulations within the law when it comes to modifying alimony, and every case is unique. Our attorneys with insight into New Jersey law can advise you about the possibility of changing your alimony payments.
DOES ALIMONY CHANGE IF INCOME CHANGES?
Does alimony change if income changes? The answer is “it depends,” which you will hear a lot in many areas of divorce and family law because each situation and fact pattern is unique. If you lose your job and ask for your alimony to be decreased or terminated, the court will want to know several things, including:
- Why you lost your job and whether it was voluntary or involuntary;
- Proof of your reduced income and the rest of your financial situation;
- What efforts you have put into looking for another job to earn a similar salary;
- The length of time you have been in your new financial situation.
In other words, you can’t quit your job or ask for a layoff simply to get out of paying alimony; you can’t decide to take on a career making a lesser amount of money. You could do that, but it will not make a different for your alimony situation. If you’ve involuntarily lost your job, you’ll have to show that you’re making a good faith effort to find similar-paying work. A temporary job loss will not automatically entitle you to a modification. That said, there is no bright-line rule on the definition of “temporary,” and these cases are very fact specific. If you are wondering whether alimony will change if income changes, get legal guidance from our firm specific to your situation.
WILL I HAVE TO PAY MORE IN ALIMONY IF MY INCOME GOES UP?
If your income has gone up, you may or may not have to pay more in alimony. If your ex-spouse asks for a modification, they will have the burden of proving your changed circumstances to the court (that your income has increased). Also, a critical component is that they will also have to convince the judge that based on their own circumstances they need more financial support in addition to what was already agreed upon or decided at the end of your divorce matter.
IF MY EX-SPOUSE GETS A NEW JOB, WILL ALIMONY CHANGE?
If your ex-spouse is now working, got a better paying job, or got a significant raise or promotion, you might be wondering if your alimony payment can change. It will mostly depend upon how much their situation improved financially and/or whether their increased income has affected their standard of living. If the increased income still isn’t enough to raise them up to the same standard of living, they had before your divorce, you may not be able to get your alimony terminated or even reduced. Then again, this depends on what kind of representation your ex-spouse made at the time of the divorce and whether she can or cannot sustain the marital standard of living with the alimony originally agreed upon.
MY EX MOVED IN WITH SOMEONE. DOES THAT MEAN ALIMONY PAYMENTS WILL CHANGE?
Alimony may be terminated or suspended due to cohabitation. NJ Statute §2A:34-23(n) describes cohabitation as “a mutually supportive, intimate personal relationship in which a couple has undertaken duties and privileges that are commonly associated with marriage or civil union but does not necessarily maintain a single common household.”
To determine whether your ex-spouse is cohabiting, the court may consider whether the couple has joint bank accounts or other intertwined finances, whether they are sharing responsibility for living expenses, how their relationship is recognized among family and friends, whether they share a home, whether they share household chores and more.
However, you need more than just “speculation” for the court to let you further delve into your ex-spouse’s situation and finances. A lot of people may rush to obtain and pay for a private investigator to provide some insight into their ex-spouses’ situation. Private investigators can be a great resource, but it would be beneficial to speak with an attorney before retaining a private investigator to make sure the strategy of what you are thinking aligns with the law.
Also, depending on when you got divorced matters as the law in cohabitation laws has evolved over the years. Are you under the new law or the old law? You divorce agreement or decision may also specify the parameters of whether you can terminate, suspend, and/or modify.
WILL ALIMONY PAYMENTS END IF MY EX-WIFE REMARRIES?
In New Jersey, if your ex-spouse remarries, your obligation to pay alimony ends upon the marriage unless you negotiated something different in your divorce agreement. The exception to termination is if you are paying reimbursement alimony, which pays your ex-spouse back for support she or he provided to you while you got an education that your ex expected to benefit from. Reimbursement alimony will not be modified for remarriage or any other reason and will last if stated in the alimony order.
You may also wonder whether you must continue paying alimony if you remarry. The answer is an emphatic “yes.” Your remarriage does not change your spousal support obligation. Of course, if you are the recipient of alimony and your ex-spouse remarries, they must still pay you.
CHANGES TO ALIMONY AT RETIREMENT
Generally, alimony payments can be modified or terminated at full retirement age, which is the age at which you would be eligible to receive full Social Security benefits. Full retirement age varies, depending on the year you were born. If you retire before full retirement age, you may also be able to have your alimony payments change but will have to show the court that your retirement was in good faith and not to get out of paying alimony. The judge will consider such things as:
- Your motives for retiring
- The age and health of you and your former spouse;
- The type of work you did and the generally accepted age of retirement in that field;
- Whether your place of employment had a mandatory retirement age;
- Anything else the court deems relevant.
OTHER REASONS TO REDUCE ALIMONY
There are other things that can happen in life that may be considered by the court as reasons to reduce alimony. If you become physically or mentally disabled or are diagnosed with a serious illness and are unable to work or must work at a lower-earning capacity, the court may consider reducing, suspending or ending alimony because of a significant change in circumstances.
Every person’s situation is different. If you are wondering whether you have a reason for reducing or ending your alimony payments to your former spouse that will hold up in court, it’s smart to speak with a New Jersey family law attorney for guidance.
THE PROCESS FOR REDUCING ALIMONY IN NJ
There are several complex steps involved when seeking an alimony reduction or termination in New Jersey. You could try to negotiate with your ex-spouse or her attorney. If that fails or you know that negotiation with your ex-spouse will not be productive, perhaps you want to obtain counsel and then decide whether mediation is appropriate and whether it is a perquisite as set forth under your divorce agreement. Otherwise, you’ll have to be the one to file a motion with the family law court asking for a change to your alimony order.
The New Jersey Courts even recommend in their “change of order packet” that you get a lawyer rather than trying to represent yourself, given the legal complexities involved in this particular process. When you seek a post-divorce modification of your alimony, an attorney from our firm will take the lead to strategize and prepare the necessary forms and other pieces of evidence you may need. Our experienced attorney will also guide you throughout the process and be at your side during the motion hearing. Don’t go it alone when so much is at stake financially.
Under the right circumstances and with knowledgeable legal representation, you could be on your way to reduced alimony payments or leaving the headache of making payments to your ex-spouse completely behind.
REACH OUT TO OUR MEN’S RIGHTS FAMILY LAWYERS IN NEW JERSEY TO LEARN IF YOUR ALIMONY PAYMENTS CAN CHANGE
OUR BERGEN COUNTY LAW FIRM WILL STAND UP FOR YOUR RIGHTS WHEN YOU HAVE REASONS TO REDUCE ALIMONY
To get help having your alimony payments modified or terminated, reach out to our experienced New Jersey family law firm. We will carefully review all the changes in your circumstances or those of your former spouse and help you make your case to the court that your payments should be modified due to the substantial change in circumstances.
Or if your ex-spouse is trying to reduce or stop payments to you, our alimony lawyer will work to protect your right to that financial support. At Men’s & Fathers’ Rights Divorce Lawyers by Schultz & Associates, LLC, our lawyers stand up for the fair treatment of our clients following divorce.
To find out more about how we can help you, call us today to arrange a case evaluation at (201) 880-9770.