As part of the New Jersey divorce process, you will need to complete a Case Information Statement – essentially what amounts to a listing of a couple’s financial assets and liabilities as well as income and family expenses. The courts then use this document, in part, to determine such critical financial matters as division of assets, alimony, and child support.
In a perfect world, the information written down on the Case Information Statement would be 100% accurate and complete. But what if you don’t have access to old bank accounts, are unsure how much you owe on your mortgage, and have no idea how much money it takes to pay the bills each month – and on top of this have an uncooperative spouse only willing to supply minimal information? Instead of guessing or estimating – and possibly suffering the consequences of an inaccurate financial record — your lawyer may recommend a process called lifestyle analysis.
A New Jersey Senate Judiciary Committee has passed amendments to New Jersey’s currently outdated and oppressive alimony laws. As reported by Marketwatch the effort was headed by Democratic Senator Nicholas Scutari with support from the New Jersey Alimony Reform and its director, Tom Leustek–whose efforts toward this end were previously reported in our blog post about Ending Lifetime Alimony. Read more
Imagine this: your divorce ends with you being told that you have to pay alimony to your ex. You don’t like it, but you do it. Then you lose your job. You can’t afford anything for yourself, let alone payment of anything to someone else. The only way you can get your alimony payments lowered or suspended is to go to court, where you now have to prove that your financial situation has seriously changed. You’re told that you haven’t been unemployed long enough to show that your circumstances have changed. Now you’re forced to wait around and prove that you’re unemployed, racking up more and more debt every month. Additionally, you’ve also had to spend money on a lawyer to try to prove that you have no money.
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.
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
Family Law Practice Areas
135 US 202/206,
Bedminster, NJ 07921
20 Commerce Drive,
Cranford, NJ 07016
83 South Street,
Freehold, NJ 07728
Court Plaza South-West Wing, 21 Main Street,
Hackensack, NJ 07601