The lockdown has resulted in huge numbers of New Jersey men and fathers being laid off or having their wages or salary reduced. This is creating a serious financial hardship for them when they are having trouble just paying their rent and buying food.
As is the case with modifying child custody or visitation schedules during the COVID-19 pandemic, it is possible to reduce alimony payments. Both child and spousal support are based on the ability of a divorced man or father to pay. While child support is based on a formula written into the law, a number of variable factors are used in setting alimony payments.
Because we are being asked by many clients about reducing their alimony payments, I thought it would be helpful to explain what a court considers when weighing their request.
Factors New Jersey Judges Weigh in Reducing a Man’s Alimony Payments
The first thing divorced men in New Jersey need to know is that they cannot just call an ex-wife and inform them that, “I can’t afford to pay alimony this month…and probably not next month, either.”
The existing court order issued at the time of your divorce remains in force until a judge modifies the directive or suspends it temporarily. Without filing a request to change your support payment, you could be considered in default and possibly subject to fines or other sanctions. A current or future employer might learn of this in an online search and probably not react well to an employee who violated a court order.
Alimony in New Jersey is based in part on the ability of an ex-husband to pay. Also reviewed is the length of the marriage or civil union along with the age and physical and emotional health of your ex-wife.
While the salaries or wages of many men has been slashed or eliminated, a judge will want to know if there are other income sources available to either person from things such as investment accounts, rental property, an inheritance, or part-time jobs that are still being performed during the lockdown.
Unusual Times May Lead to More Flexibility by New Jersey Family Law Judges Considering Alimony Reductions
Before the pandemic hit and Governor Phil Murphy ordered everybody to stay at home, family courts in New Jersey hesitated changing an alimony order. Now, with so many lives turned topsy-turvy as a result of COVID-19, it is possible that judges will be more flexible.
The problem is that the first filings are just beginning to reach the courts, so it is difficult to predict if a pattern will emerge telegraphing which submissions are approved and which may be rejected.
In more normal times, along with income and the ability to pay, there were other things considered as well, including:
- The history of the contribution – financial or otherwise – to the marriage of the person seeking spousal support
- The standard of living when the couple was together with neither party having a greater right to maintain the way they lived during the marriage or civil union
- The education, skills, and employability of each person
- How long it would take for the person receiving alimony to train for a job and find one
- How long one person was out of the job market
- Responsibilities of the custodial parent or each of the co-parents
- The equitable distribution of property and any payout to each person whether directly or indirectly out of their current income
- The tax treatment of alimony for each spouse
- Whether temporary support was paid when the divorce application was being considered by the court.
The law also allows a judge to consider other factors. No doubt as cases are filed every family court will be taking the impact of the COVID-19 shutdown into consideration.
Our Guidance is Available to Help New Jersey Men and Fathers Decide About Asking for Reduced Support Payments
Asking for a reduction in spousal support is being requested more frequently now because so many divorced men in New Jersey have had their income and employment situation changed fundamentally since they split with their wife.
Even with all of us working remotely, the family lawyers for men and fathers in New Jersey are in touch with each other and the court as well as client files thanks to our electronic infrastructure. If you are a divorced man or father in New Jersey and have questions regarding changing your spousal support payments, we can meet you in our Virtual Law Office or we can discuss your situation by phone at either 973.562.0100 in Nutley or, in Montclair, at 862.245.4620.
To schedule an appointment, please request a day/time here.