After a divorce is settled, a common fear is that the terms of the agreement are set in stone. Luckily for NJ residents, this just isn’t so. You can change certain sections of your divorce agreement even after it is finalized, including the terms of spousal support, also known as alimony. Only a qualified divorce attorney can give you legal advice, but it’s also helpful to know what options may or may not be available to you.
New Jersey Alimony Laws
When determining the terms of your divorce, one issue that often arises is the subject of alimony. In many cases, if one spouse earns more income than another, the less-earning spouse may be entitled to regular alimony payments. Alimony payments – as you might already know – are calculated based on each spouses’ income, in addition to other factors such as one spouse’s earning potential and financial situation.
In New Jersey, there is no “alimony calculator” – in other words, there is no standard mathematical formula used to determine how much one pays the other. This task is often in the hands of a family law judge, so having an experienced, hard-hitting divorce attorney who understands NJ alimony laws on your side is essential.
Alimony can be adjusted after a divorce has been finalized if there is a sufficient “change of circumstance.” Alimony modifications might include:
- One spouse begins paying less support to the other
- One spouse begins paying more support to the other
- One spouse begins paying alimony, whereas he or she did not pay alimony before
You might ask a judge to reduce your alimony payments, or you might request that your former spouse pay more in spousal support.
What constitutes a change in circumstance?
New Jersey courts usually find that a significant “change in circumstance” means that one or both parties’ economic and financial situation has drastically changed. The increase or reduction in income might be related to:
- An increase in the cost of living.
- An increase or decrease in supporting spouses’ income.
- Illness, disability, or infirmity after the divorce.
- The loss of a house or apartment by one spouse
- The former spouse’s cohabitation with another person.
- Unemployment by the supporting spouse
In general, a major life change won’t be enough to warrant alimony changes. However, a major life change that leads to a big shift in one party’s financial situation could be the impetus for alimony modification. For example, if one former spouse starts co-habiting with a new person, this doesn’t automatically mean the paying spouse (the person making the alimony payments) can stop making support payments. Yet – if the new co-habitation means the non-paying spouse now has a significant increase in income, a judge may consider making alimony changes. Now the supporting spouse might be required to pay less in alimony.
How can I modify my alimony arrangement?
Either party can file a motion with a family law court to modify an alimony agreement. You’ll need to show documentation that supports your motion, such as financial documents, including bank statements, tax returns, and pay stubs.
Speak with a divorce attorney to learn more about your options. Family law matters can become heated and emotional, so having a non biased party with legal experience and knowledge can be your greatest asset.