After a divorce, situations may arise that require the modification of alimony for either the recipient spouse or paying spouse. Read on to learn about alimony modification in New Jersey.
Where required to be paid, whether as the result of a judge’s decision after a trial or by the terms a Settlement Agreement hammered out by the parties, alimony is subject to modification. New Jersey courts grant alimony after consideration of a variety of statutorily imposed factors. Still, circumstances can and do change over time after a divorce—among other things, former spouses can change or lose their jobs, remarry, co-habit, be promoted or demoted, suffer from health issues – any of which may require a modification of alimony. Under certain circumstances, alimony may even be terminated completely. Settlement Agreements generally contain a provision addressing the changes that may affect alimony, language courts look for when modification of alimony is litigated.
Modifying alimony is often challenging, yet still possible. A modification of alimony may be sought when a “substantial change in circumstances” occurs at some point after the divorce, affecting either the paying spouse’s ability to pay or the receiving spouse’s needs. Courts have wide discretion to decide what constitutes a “substantial change in circumstances.” It will be the burden of the party seeking the modification to establish to the Court’s satisfaction there has been a “substantial change of circumstances.”
Some of the most common changes of circumstances used for seeking modification of alimony include:
Where there is a Settlement Agreement, the court will look to its terms for guidance. Absent language to the contrary, generally speaking, a change in circumstances must be one that was not envisioned, or could not have been predicted when the alimony was ordered or agreed to. Circumstances that were foreseeable at the time the Settlement Agreement was signed often fail to rise to the level of “substantial change in circumstances” in the eyes of the court.
A change in income is a factor to be considered when judging a payor spouse’s ability to pay alimony or a receiving spouse’s need to receive income. More often than not, the courts are asked to find a substantial change of circumstances has resulted in a reduced income for the payor or for the recipient. The courts do not view all reductions in income equally – especially where parties made voluntary decisions to accept a lower. Generally, a change in income will only will viewed as a “substantial change of circumstances” if that change was involuntary and made in good faith.
A party seeking a modification of alimony must first prove to the court’s satisfaction that he or she has experienced a substantial change of the circumstances from that which existed at the time the alimony order was entered, either trial or by way of a Settlement Agreement. Alimony modification is not black and white. Seeking the support of an experienced Family Law Attorney to assist in navigating the grey area that surrounds alimony is indispensable. If you are wondering whether a change in your situation can justify modification in alimony or if your former spouse is seeking a modification, the seasoned family lawyers at Arons & Solomon can assist you. Call (201) 487-1199 or click today to learn more.