Temporary Change of Circumstances

We have blogged several times as to a former spouse’s attempt to obtain an alimony or child support reduction based on the existence of substantial and continuing changed circumstances impacting the spouse’s ability to pay, as set forth by the New Jersey Supreme Court in Lepis v. Lepis, 83 N.J. 139 (1980).  One of the so-called recognized changed circumstances set forth in Lepis is "illness, disability or infirmity" arising after a support Order was first entered. 

An interesting question might arise as to whether a payor spouse claiming an illness or disability as the basis for changed circumstances is really trying to engage in a bad faith form of early, voluntary retirement in order to avoid paying support.  Generally, a retirement when the spouse hits age 65 may justify a support reduction so long as it was made in good faith.  Where the retirement occurs before age 65, however, a Court will look even more closely at the facts to see to what degree the retiring spouse benefits from his retirement compared to the disadvantage suffered by the dependent spouse.

Further, while a temporary change in circumstances, such as through the loss of employment, is generally not enough to obtain a support reduction, what about the reduction of support for a specific, limited period of time?  For instance, New Jersey courts have granted this type of reduction where the payor spouse has been imprisoned or cohabitated with another for a specific period of time.