If you listen to the news, then you are constantly hearing about how the banks are failing, the stock market has crashed, people have lost one half of their retirement savings, and how the auto industry is dying. However, unfortunately you don't hear all that often as to how the economic meltdown is wreaking havoc on many New Jersey families. In this day and age a new harsh reality is lurking all throughout the Garden State; many people are unable to keep up with their child support and alimony payments no matter how hard they try. As the economic meltdown show no sign of stopping, many newly unemployed divorcees simply can't find work to enable them to pay for their alimony and child support payments.
With the unemployment rates New Jersey at record high rates it is no surprise that many New Jersey'ites are unable to keep up with their alimony payments. These distressed alimony payors simply do not have the ability to pay anymore. There are legions of good, hard-working, and solid New Jersey citizens who are not irresponsible deadbeats. On the contrary, they are just unable to meet their financial obligations in this tough economy. Don't despair! There are many legal options within the New Jersey court system to try to have alimony payments reviewed, and possibly reduced, and even in some cases terminated for good. However, it is imperative that you must provide detailed proof that you have lost your job, or you have received a sizable cut in your paycheck, your commissions are not coming in, or your overtime has been cut.
Here a seven tips for an economically distressed person who is having a difficult time keeping up with his alimony, and who is also considering filing a motion for an alimony reduction.
You should contact an experienced family lawyer and immediately file a motion to reduce/terminate alimony. The family courts are fully aware of the terrible economy, and they will provide you with alimony relief if you can prove to them that you deserve it. The worst thing that you can do if you have lost your job, or if your income has been drastically reduced is to simply do nothing and hope that your alimony just disappears.
If you are on good terms with your ex-spouse, then you should immediately talk to her and explain to her your predicament. Moreover, you should ask her if she would be willing to accept a reduced alimony payment until you are back on your feet. If you are suffering really hard times, then you could even ask her if she would give you a grace period of not making any alimony payments until you find a new job. If you are fortunate, and if you are able reach an agreement with your ex-spouse, then you should retain a lawyer to formalize your agreement so that it becomes legally binding!
Even if your ex-spouse does not agree to a modified alimony plan, then you should at least make some good faith payment partial payment(s) each week. You should try to pay as much of your alimony as possible. If you file a motion to reduce alimony, then if you submit proof that you have made partial alimony payment(s), then this will be viewed most favorably by the court.
You must be prepared to provide detailed documentation to the court to prove that your income has bee substantially reduced. If you are unable to provide adequate documentation, then the court will deny your motion"in a jiffy." Under New Jersey law, you must prove that there are a material "change of circumstances" to justify a reduction in your alimony. There is no set percentage that your income has to be reduced in order to file a motion for an alimony reduction. However, the reduction in your income must be substantial enough so that it impacts upon your ability to "make ends meat" and to keep up with your child support and alimony payments.
If you file a motion to reduce your alimony, then you also should keep detailed records of your job search. In your motion, you should attach any agreements that you have with headhunters, any e-mails that you have send to potential employers, any listings that you have placed with Monster.com or any other employment related websites, and copies of any rejections letters. The family courts are obsessed with documentation. The more documentation that you can provide the better.
If you have lost your job, and if your former spouse is gainfully employed, then you might want to consider whether you might qualify for receiving alimony from your former spouse. You may consider filing a motion for alimony against your former spouse to help you meet your financial needs until you are able to find another job.
Finally, you should consider whether you should try to file a motion to terminate alimony because of the passage of time since the date when the judgment of divorce was originally filed. There are many major grounds to terminate alimony. Perhaps your ex-wife now earns even more money than you do. If this is the case, then there is no longer an economic need for alimony for your spouse to still receive alimony, and you would have an excellent chance to prevail on your motion. Perhaps, you can file a motion to reduce alimony based on your health condition. Maybe, you can file a motion to reduce alimony based on the grounds that your business has failed. A motion to reduce alimony can also be filed if you have retired. Get the point, there are many reasons why alimony can be reduced or even terminated. However, only an experienced family lawyer can give you the "low down" on your chances of success.
New Jersey is an equitable distribution state, meaning that the division of property in a divorce is to be done fairly, not necessarily equally. The court can take into consideration any factor it deems relevant when dividing property, but it must consider certain factors, such as how long the couple was married and the age and health of both spouses, the income or property brought to the marriage by each spouse, the standard of living that was achieved during the marriage, and the extent to which one spouse may have deferred career goals, among others.
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