Alimony, also known as spousal support, is a challenging concept. The obligation to pay support to a former spouse is often the most contentious issue in any divorce. One purpose of alimony is to ensure that both parties may continue to live in a reasonably comparable...
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.
Under New Jersey law, when a party’s motion has been denied by the court, the party may file a motion for reconsideration. However, this is only available if the matter meets certain criteria demonstrating an error has been made. The purpose of making a motion for reconsideration is not to give a party another opportunity to make the same arguments but to advise the Court of facts it overlooked or controlling law the Court did not consider.
Many people think of domestic violence incidents as occurring between parties who are in an active relationship, but that is not a requirement. New Jersey’s Prevention of Domestic Violence Act (PDVA) protects against acts of domestic violence that occur between a spouse, former spouse, household member or individuals involved in a dating relationship, including past relationships. Such a relationship also does not have to be exclusive. Even casual dating may give rise to a claim under the PDVA, as affirmed in a recent Appellate Division case.
Under New Jersey law, both parents are obligated to contribute to the support of their child. The payor’s child support obligation may be modified if he or she has experienced “changed circumstances,” which includes major health issues or permanent disability.
New Jersey law provides that both parents must pay basic child support plus certain add-on expenses. While a Court or the parties may decide how much each parent pays initially, that amount may later be modified if a party has experienced “changed circumstances,” which include job loss or obtaining a higher paying job. When the Court finds that a party is voluntarily underemployed or unemployed without just cause, the Court has the discretion to impute income to that parent based on certain criteria. A recent appellate decision illustrates this point.
When alimony is agreed upon in accordance with a Marital Settlement Agreement or awarded by a Court order, it is a legally enforceable obligation. As a result, if the payor-spouse refuses to pay or pays less than the agreed upon amount, the recipient spouse can file an application with the Court to enforce the support award. The Court has the power to order the payor spouse to pay the amount owed and may use other tools to deter the spouse from future nonpayment.