Frequently, people going through a divorce describe themselves as surprised or even shocked by their partner’s decision to end the marriage. Even those who suspected their spouse was considering a divorce are often stunned to learn their spouse has been planning the financial aspects of the divorce for months or even years before the Complaint for Divorce was filed. A spouse’s pre-planning of the financial aspects of their divorce is so common a phenomenon it has been given the phrase “divorce-planning.”
In New Jersey, alimony and child support obligations are generally subject to modification based on “changed circumstances.” The right to seek modification, and the steps one must take when doing so, were established in 1980 by the New Jersey Supreme Court in the case of Lepis v. Lepis. Typically, modification of an alimony or child support obligation requires a post-divorce application to the Court if the parties are not able to agree on whether to modify the support obligation and/or by how much.
As part of the divorce process, spouses must resolve various financial matters, including support and division of assets and debts. The resulting marital settlement agreement is enforceable in a court of law, even when one party declares bankruptcy after the divorce has been finalized, as illustrated by a recent New Jersey decision.
If you are going through the process of divorcing in the State of New Jersey, the Court will require you and your spouse to file a “Case Information Statement.” This is a document which summarizes the finances of the marriage. Generally, the Case Information Statement asks you to provide your income, your spouse’s income, the average spending over the course of one year, and list all assets and liabilities.
New Jersey allows married couples to seek a limited divorce known as Divorce from Bed and Board. This action is often taken by parties who have religious objections to divorce, or for economic reasons such as maintaining eligibility for health insurance through their spouse’s health insurance coverage, social security and retirement benefits. While Divorce from Bed and Board offers certain advantages, there are also pitfalls which couples should consider before pursuing a Divorce from Bed and Board.
Marital settlement agreements often provide that a party can suspend, modify or terminate the obligation to pay alimony if the recipient spouse “cohabits” with another person. Currently, cohabitation under New Jersey law is defined as “… a mutually supportive, intimate personal relationship in which a couple has undertaken duties and privileges that are commonly associated with marriage or civil union but does not necessarily maintain a single common household.” The reality under New Jersey law is that proving cohabitation can be difficult as noted in the recent New Jersey appellate case of Landau v. Landau.