Alimony in divorces is, in theory, fair to both parties. However the amount calculated is based on a snapshot of both parties’ financial situation. Using a Case Information Statement, NJ courts look at the incomes and assets of the spouses to determine an alimony amount. What if circumstances change?
First of all, not just any change will lead to a modification of alimony. In the past New Jersey courts have reduce alimony in cases of decreased income, retirement, illness or the payee’s cohabitation with another partner. It has to be a life change that would affect either the payor’s ability to pay or the payee’s need for support. However listing a reduced income in a New Jersey CIS is only the start of the process.
Is the change permanent? Retirement is likely to be considered permanent as would some kind of long-term disability that affects the payor’s ability to work. Is unemployment? As a rule, no, you can find another job, but if the payor can demonstrate a permanent downturn in that person’s professional industry then it could be considered a permanent change. Even the term “permanent” is a relative phrase. After all marriage is considered permanent in the eyes of the law, but there are a lot of divorce attorneys out there who know permanent doesn’t always mean forever.
Is the change involuntary? Some payors will quit their jobs or under-employ themselves in hopes of reducing alimony only to find the judge rules against them. Judges know about these attempts to deliberately manipulate the system and will not rule in favor of an alimony change just because of a reduced salary on a Case Information Statement.
Has the payor made an attempt to remedy the situation? For example an out of work spouse must show evidence of an active job search. Sitting home and collecting unemployment while watching game shows on TV is not grounds to reduce alimony.
Alimony reduction is difficult. The burden of proof lies on the paying spouse and judges tend to need very strong evidence in addition to the New Jersey CIS form to grant the reduction.
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