Has something significant recently changed your financial circumstances, such as a drastic and involuntary reduction in your income? Or, have you recently learned that your ex-spouse has gotten a substantial raise or a much higher-paying job? These types of situations can lead a person paying alimony, now more commonly known as spousal support, to wonder if they’re now paying too much. And, if you do believe that you should have your spousal support reduced, how do you go about getting that reduction approved by a judge?
Requesting a review. Your former spouse’s alimony award is probably contained in a court order such as your final judgment of divorce. In order to have your spousal support payment reduced (if your ex won’t agree to the reduction), you must go back to court and file paperwork requesting that your case be reviewed for an alimony modification. If you are asking for a decrease in your spousal support payments, you have the burden to prove to the judge that there has been a significant change in circumstances since the alimony started and a modification is justified. For example, you ex has remarried or perhaps your business that was once thriving, has failed. Whatever substantial event you are telling the court about, that event must have caused you to no longer be able to fulfill your alimony obligation, or the event, such as your wife hitting the lottery for millions, has made the alimony payments no longer needed by your ex.
Show proof that income changes are lasting and involuntary. It is not an easy burden to prove to the judge that your ex-spouse should receive less money; that is why whatever change in your financial circumstances must be a significant change and that change cannot be temporary or fleeting. For example, if you are being furloughed from your job for a very short time or getting a temporary reduction in salary for only a few weeks, it is unlikely that a court will reduce your payments.
Also, you cannot voluntarily undergo a drastic change in your income and expect the court to lower your spousal support payment. Your lifelong dream may be to collect seashells in the Caribbean, but if you give up your six-figure Wall Street job to pursue that dream, you are still going to be responsible for paying the same amount of alimony to your wife. If you voluntarily take a lower paying job, the court can continue your alimony based on your original salary, known as the imputing an income amount to you. Further, the change in your circumstances must be impacting your ability to meet even your own basic living expenses.
Retirement. Able to retire early? That is wonderful news. But, you cannot voluntarily retire to avoid making your spousal support payments, simply so that you can tell the court that you have retired. Retirement certainly can be a significant change in a person’s financial status, but it is unlikely that a court will consider this as a valid reason to modify your spousal support payment before traditional retirement age.
Medical reasons. A sudden loss of employment, however, can be grounds for a reduction in alimony, especially if it is due to a significant illness or deterioration in your health. If this situation is currently effecting you, be sure to gather and be ready to present your medical records to the court. You may also have to have your doctor write a report for you and testify in court about your illness or disability that has been negatively impacting on your ability to work and earn the same wage.
If you lost your job. If you were simply let go from your job as a result of downsizing or closing of the business, be sure to pound the pavement looking for new employment. Going to court with proof that you applied for two jobs in six months is not sufficient proof that you are attempting to at least find comparable work. Compile proof of the jobs that you applied for and keep records of interviews and communications with potential employers. This proof will help show the court that you are trying and that your continued financial hardship is continuing despite your best efforts.
Spousal remarriage. If your ex-spouse remarries and you are paying spousal support, upon the remarriage, your alimony ends automatically, even if your alimony payments were to continue on for many years after your divorce.
Spousal support laws can get tricky. Consider at least having a consultation with a qualified attorneys who is experienced in handling court actions to modify alimony payments and who is local to your area. A few years ago, New Jersey made significant changes to alimony laws in the state and it is important that you have at least the basic understanding of these newer laws. Meeting with a family law attorney can give you the basics so that you have a good grasp on how the law applies to your specific case.
Remember that all cases and all situations are different. Do you best to get educated about spousal support laws in New Jersey as they apply to you and gather all your relevant information for court, so that you can make a strong and supported argument for a reduction in your spousal support payments.
If you have more questions about alimony, divorce, or any other family law issue, we are here to help. Contact us or call us today at 888-888-0919 schedule your initial confidential consultation with one of our skilled and compassionate attorneys.