The amount you are paying or receiving in alimony may not be carved in stone. When circumstances change for people as time goes on, so can the amount of alimony payments. 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. In some situations, alimony payments may increase.
If you’re seeking to change alimony payments, 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 payments and your divorce agreement didn’t say that you were prohibited from seeking a modification. 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 a New Jersey alimony lawyer to give you an in-depth understanding of the state’s alimony law and explain options for your situation.
WHEN CAN ALIMONY BE CHANGED AFTER DIVORCE IN NJ?
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 modify 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, 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 take on a career making a lesser amount of money simply to get out of paying alimony. If you do, it will not make a difference 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 specific to your situation.
REASONS TO MODIFY ALIMONY IN NEW JERSEY
RECEIVING SPOUSES’ INCOME INCREASES
If your ex-spouse is now working, got a better paying job, or got a significant raise, you may wonder 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.
PAYING SPOUSES’ INCOME INCREASES
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). They will also have to convince the judge that based on their own circumstances they need more financial support than what was already agreed upon or decided at the end of your divorce matter.
RECEIVING SPOUSE IS COHABITING
Alimony may be terminated or suspended due to cohabitation. 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, although the Supreme Court of New Jersey has given more guidance on this issue in the case of Cardali v. Cardali (April 25, 2023) . While some people may obtain a private investigator to provide insight into their ex-spouse’s situation, it would be beneficial to speak with an attorney first to make sure the strategy of what you are thinking aligns with the law because you may or may not need one, depending.
Also, when you got divorced matters, as laws regarding cohabitation have evolved over the years. Are you under the new law or the old law? Your divorce agreement or decision may also specify the parameters of whether you can terminate, suspend, and/or modify.
RECEIVING SPOUSE 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 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.
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.
PAYING SPOUSE RETIRES
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. You should check with Social Security at: https://www.ssa.gov/benefits/retirement/planner/agereduction.html to determine what your particular retirement age is based on the year you were born.
If you retire before full retirement age, you may also be able to have your payments change. However, you will have to show the court that your retirement was in good faith. The judge will consider such things as:
- Your motives for retiring
- The ages 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 CHANGE ALIMONY
There are other life happenings 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.
CAN ALIMONY BE REDUCED IN NJ? CONTACT OUR ALIMONY LAWYERS TO LEARN THE FACTS FOR YOUR SITUATION
To get help modifying your alimony payments, reach out to our experienced New Jersey family law firm. We will carefully review your changed situation or that of your former spouse and help you make your case to the court that your payments should be modified. 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 [MFR] Men’s & Fathers’ Rights Divorce Lawyers, we stand up for the fair treatment of our clients following divorce. Call us today to arrange a case evaluation at (201) 880-9770.