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.


Continue Reading Alimony Modification – A Judge's Checklist

As a continuation to last week’s post regarding what happens when trial courts fail to grant hearings to supporting spouses when they may be warranted, i.e. upon a showing of changed circumstances, this blog post will focus on those times where a hearing is deemed unnecessary based on the facts of a given case. This sometimes occurs in situations where an obligor is self-employed, has the ability to control his or her income, and is attempting to capitalize on the down economy in order to wriggle out of support obligations, sometimes only a few short years after the initial support award.

This type of issue was addressed at length in a prior blog post by Eric Solotoff, Esq. in the context of a discussion of Donnelly v. Donnelly where a self-employed attorney was denied a reduction to his alimony obligation two years following the entry of the Final Judgment of Divorce based on a purported downturn in his law practice. In these types of instances, trial courts have followed the mantra that where the supporting spouse owns his own businesses, the income of the self-employed obligor must be viewed “more expansively.”

For example, in the 2010 case of Pisciotti v. Pisciotti, the defendant-husband appealed from an Order denying his motion to reduce his alimony obligations and to pay child support. At the time of their divorce in 1999, the parties entered into a Property Settlement Agreement (“PSA”) obligating the husband to pay $3,000 per month in alimony, as well as child support in the amount of $4,207.34 per month. Ten (10) years following the parties’ divorce, the husband filed a motion to reduce his support obligations, arguing that his income had substantially declined since the time of the divorce and that his assets, which included several heavily mortgaged properties, had decreased significantly in value. The husband also asserted that the fitness center business, in which he was a co-investor and employee, had suffered during the economic downturn, thereby diminishing his compensation therefrom. The husband supplied various materials in support of his motion, including an updated Case Information Statement, his certification, and personal tax returns. The former wife opposed the motion, arguing that the husband’s motion was not adequately supported, and therefore he had not established a prima facie change of circumstances.


Continue Reading For Self-Employed Litigants, Is There A Higher Standard for Modification of a Support Obligation?

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.


Continue Reading Motions to Reduce Support: When Applications are Denied without a Plenary Hearing, What's Next?