Modification of Alimony

For the second time in about a month, the Appellate Division has reversed improvidently granted discovery when there hadn’t been a showing of a change of circumstance.  As noted by Eliana Baer on this blog on August 12,  2019 (about a case she and I were involved in) in a post entitled Appellate Division Rules:

It’s a story as old as time in the New Jersey courts. Alimony is set based upon the income of parties to a divorce, but then years later, a spouse loses his or her job and is unable to continue to make the agreed upon or ordered payments. What is a Court to do?

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As a matter of public policy, New Jersey Courts favor the enforcement of agreements reached between parties. Since Marital Settlement Agreements (“MSA”) are entered into consensually and voluntarily, they are often approached with a predisposition in favor of their validity and enforceability.  That notwithstanding, these agreements are enforceable only if they are fair and equitable.

Change is finally here – On September 10, 2014, Governor Chris Christie signed into law substantial and significant amendments to New Jersey’s alimony law.  The law took immediate effect on that date.  I previously blogged about the now effective changes after the legislature passed the bill during the Summer, and we have prepared an Alert

Recently I lost a dear client and friend, Bill*, after his long battle with brain cancer.  Bill was a man with a kind-hearted spirit and a gentle disposition – one of those “really nice guys” that you just wanted to bend over backwards to help.

While Bill was fortunate enough to spend his last days

Most people are aware that a supporting spouse may be entitled to modify an alimony obligation upon a showing of “changed circumstances.” However, many people do not know that the “leg-work” that they have to do to set themselves up to succeed on such a Motion begins long before the parties ever go to Court, especially if a supporting spouse is asking for relief on the basis of a purported job loss or reduction in income.

Below is a non-exhaustive list of items that a Judge will look for when a supporting spouse is requesting to reduce his or her alimony obligations:

• Has the applicant proven that his/her circumstances have changed such that he/she would be entitled to a child support or alimony reduction – Common scenarios constituting changed circumstances include:
       o A reduction in a party’s income;
       o Illness;
       o Retirement;
       o The receipt of an influx of liquid assets;
       o Cohabitation of the supported spouse.


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In this economy, you would be surprised to see how many judges are jaded by applications brought by supporting spouses to reduce their support obligations based upon a reduction in income. After all, some judges entertain these applications on their daily docket and oftentimes see supporting spouses who are simply attempting to capitalize on the down economy and lack any actual merit to their cases. This blog post will explore one of the reactions by judges to this type of application; namely, denying the request of the supporting spouse outright without even holding a hearing, taking testimony, and making credibility findings.

Support obligations are always modifiable by the family court upon application of the supporting spouse.  Typically, this type of application requires the supporting spouse to make a threshold prima facie showing that “changed circumstances have substantially impaired the ability to support himself or herself.” Lepis v. Lepis, 83 N.J. 139, 157 (1980). When such a showing is made, the Court must next determine if a plenary hearing is warranted. This is sometimes referred to as the two-step Lepis analysis.


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With the economic downturn and slow down in the economy since 2008, there has been a lot more post-judgment litigation to reduce alimony and child support. Much of this litigation has been legitimate; other has been brought by opportunists, throwing around buzzwords and crying about the economy when there is really no substantial change of