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Termination / Modification of Alimony
The Court may revise and alter spousal and child support orders from time to time as circumstances require. Before a court will modify a support amount it must be established that changed circumstances exist. In determining whether or not changed circumstances exist, the Court generally looks at:
It is important to note that any change in circumstance relied upon by a party seeking modification of a support order must be involuntary.
In making an application to modify a support obligation, the party seeking modification bears the burden of showing the existence of changed circumstances. The party seeking modification must make full disclosure of their financial status, including tax returns, before the other spouse's financial status becomes an issue. Once the moving party has made a prima-facie showing of changed circumstances, the respondent's ability to pay becomes a factor for the court to consider.
The following are examples of events that can constitute changed circumstances:
In a divorce agreement, the parties can make specific provisions regarding modification. They can specifically agree that at some point, modification will be necessary. The parties may also agree under what circumstances modification will occur. Conversely, the parties may agree that modification will not be permitted.
When a Property Settlement Agreement specifically provides that alimony will be reviewed upon retirement, a future date, or upon some other triggering event, the standard of review may become an issue. The court may look to whether changed circumstances exist or may choose to consider the statutory alimony factors the legislature has said the court must consider in making an initial award of alimony. These factors are:
This author believes consideration of the statutory factors is the more appropriate standard of review, absent a specific agreement. The changed circumstances approach presupposes that alimony should continue, unless a prima facie change of circumstance is proven. The goal is to maintain the marital lifestyle if possible. However, an agreement to review alimony requires scrutiny of all statutory factors, as they relate to the post-judgment financial environment. It is therefore appropriate that agreements provide what the standard for review will be.
To file for divorce in New Jersey under no-fault grounds, the couple must have been living separate and apart in different residences for at least 18 consecutive months. There must be no hope of reconciliation in the marriage.
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"A Plain English Guide to Protecting Your Children"
Author: Mary L. Boland, Attorney at Law
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