Articles Posted in Alimony and Spousal Support

When life throws you a curve ball, your financial circumstances may change, so too may your ability to make alimony payments. Modifying, reducing, or terminating New Jersey alimony payments, however, can often be a tricky and complex legal situation. For parties considering such a change, it is crucial that you evaluate all of your options under state law to ensure the best chances of success.

In a recent Superior Court of New Jersey opinion, the court considered a case concerning the termination of alimony. The parties were married for nearly 13 years before getting divorced and agreeing to $100,000 a year in alimony, broken down into monthly payments. The plaintiff eventually moved to terminate alimony payments, arguing that an increase in the defendant’s income by $80,000 constituted a change in circumstances. The motion judge, however, found that the plaintiff failed to prove a change in circumstances warranting a modification of alimony. The judge further claimed that the plaintiff’s credibility was compromised and his arguments were unconvincing to warrant a change.

On appeal, the plaintiff argued that the judge failed to enforce the terms of the couple’s agreement and instead rewrote the parties’ contract. The Superior Court of New Jersey sided with the lower court’s decision on the issue and rejected the plaintiff’s argument that the judge rewrote the parties’ contract. Because the judge assessed the totality of the circumstances, including the negotiation of the parties’ agreement, the judge was both able to understand the context of the agreement but also the parties’ intent when crafting the language.

Alimony, otherwise known as financial support that a person must pay to their spouse following a separation or divorce, is a common part of many divorce settlements. However, when things change, and the party responsible for paying the alimony is no longer able to because of extenuating circumstances, what does the law say? If you are experiencing significant hardships or obstacles in meeting your New Jersey alimony obligations, are you able to terminate or modify your obligations?

In a recent Superior Court of New Jersey opinion, the court considered a case involving termination of alimony obligations in light of extenuating circumstances. In the case at hand, the parties divorced in 2006 after a 26-year marriage and negotiated a Property Settlement Agreement (the “Agreement”). Based on the Agreement, the wife agreed to pay her husband $300 per week in alimony. Several years after the divorce, the wife experienced many significant health and medical issues, including a brain tumor, which forced her to retire from her job. She ceased making alimony payments to her husband and moved to terminate her alimony obligation. The husband opposed the motion. Following oral arguments, the trial court terminated the wife’s alimony obligations, and the husband appealed.

On appeal, the court sided with the wife and affirmed the trial court’s decision. Because of the wife’s extenuating circumstances, such as her retirement and significant health issues, the court held that in light of her retirement and poor health, along with sufficient financial documents from the parties, the trial court had properly analyzed the dispute. Further, the wife was 66 years old, was at a good-faith retirement age, and her health was proof of further changed circumstances that would warrant a modification or termination of her alimony responsibilities.

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