Post-Divorce Increase in Income Impacts New Ruling on Spousal Support Calculations in Jersey

Has your spouse received a large raise at work since the two of you split? If you are seeking alimony as part of your divorce settlement, take note of this recent post-complaint ruling in New Jersey: a breadwinner’s increase in income following a marital separation or divorce may be used in spousal support calculations, especially if the spouse seeking support helped to make the earner’s success possible, according to Ocean County Superior Court Judge Lawrence Jones.

The ruling was handed down in Dudas v. Dudas, a divorce case that involved spousal support calculations at the end of the 26-year marriage of James and Pamela Dudas, reports the New Jersey Law Journal. James Dudas, the main breadwinner and an auto parts salesman, earned an average annual income of about $40,000 leading up to the couple’s 2007 split. In 2008, the year Pamela filed for divorce, James suddenly began earning much more money. In 2009, he took home $64,000, in 2010, $76,000; and in 2011, a projected $68,000.

Pamela was a stay-at-home mom for much of the marriage, with occasional jobs that rarely netted more than $18,000 per year. When Pamela requested that spousal support take into consideration her estranged husband’s higher income levels, James argued that alimony should be based on what he was earning when he and Pamela separated. Judge Jones sided with Pamela, finding that Pamela had provided James with a springboard for future success by maintaining a strong and stable household and working outside the home to support James when he tried, unsuccessfully, to start his own business.

“While on the surface there may appear to be logic and an attractive simplicity to defendant’s position, the financial complexities of divorce weigh heavily against completely excluding defendant’s post-complaint income from consideration in the alimony analysis,” Judge Jones wrote.

For Jones, the case boiled down to a question of equity — the goal of which is to enable both parties to enjoy a lifestyle as close as possible to the lifestyle they had during marriage; Jones reached the conclusion that recent successes that occur after a marriage separation and during the divorce process should not be ignored.

Post-divorce matters may warrant changes in your initial divorce agreement related to alimony as was the case in the recent Dudas divorce case or other modifications. To find out more about post-divorce changes for alimony or other New Jersey family law matters, just call us at (973) 520-8822 or consider scheduling a free consultation online to discuss your specific situation.

Sources:
New Jersey Law Journal – Spike in Income After Marital Split Can Be Factored Into Alimony Determination:http://www.law.com/jsp/nj/PubArticleNJ.jsp?id=1202521259101&slreturn=1

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