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.
Under New Jersey law, alimony can be modified or terminated when the responsible party goes through retirement or reaches a good faith retirement age. Further, the party seeking to modify or terminate a support obligation like an alimony payment must prove that changed circumstances will significantly impair the ability to support themselves. When considering changed circumstances, the court will usually examine both parties’ financial status.
Once changed circumstances are established, the court determines whether a hearing is necessary. To obtain a hearing, the party must prove some issues are unsettled or still in dispute. The court will typically examine certifications and supporting documents provided by the parties to make this determination.
Divorces can often be messy, emotionally exhausting, and stressful affairs. This is why potential litigants are advised to retain an experienced divorce attorney who understands New Jersey divorce laws and can guide you through the entire process, including when circumstances change. This way, you can move forward in your life with peace, knowing that even after a divorce is settled, any other issues that come up will be handled by an experienced representative who will advocate tirelessly on your behalf.
Do You Need a New Jersey Divorce Attorney?
If you or someone you know is currently going through a New Jersey divorce or are experiencing legal challenges after a divorce, contact the law office of attorney Jeffrey R. Brown. Attorney Brown is an experienced, compassionate, and seasoned attorney who has represented clients on all types of complex divorce and family law issues. To schedule a free consultation today, contact us at 732-613-0066.