Alimony is one of those subjects that invariably arouses controversy and concern. It can be defined as a husband’s or wife’s court-ordered provision for a spouse after separation or divorce. Traditionally it is the husband (or ex-husband) who is expected to pay up. However things in many States, including New Jersey, are now changing, very much as a reflection of changes in society, in employment and in the male-female balance in the world of work.
Alimony is not the same as child support and there is no defined formula for its calculation. Many different factors in a broken marriage are taken into account by the judge when making his decision. Traditionally one can make the assumption that the husband was expected to keep his former spouse more or less in the life style to which she had become accustomed.
In at least eleven of the states, including New Jersey, new legislation has changed many of the traditional assumptions. The law makes it easier for alimony payers (usually the husbands) to have payments reduced or terminated. The law as it used to be was the product of a society where the man was in almost every conceivable case deemed to be the breadwinner and women did not have very much chance to be financially independent.
The new law starts with the presumption that each partner is responsible for his or her own finances. The changes that are reflected in new laws are mirrors of society’s own changes. However although most women are in the marketplace that does not mean that alimony is a thing of the past. Laws are not retroactive and the problem for men who feel they are being treated unfairly still remains. What course is open to them?
The most important advice is not to ignore the law because defaulters can face charges of indirect civil contempt of court, or, in some states, as criminal contempt of court. Depending on different State laws, a defaulter could expect a fine or even a spell in prison, without any lessening of the alimony bill. It is really important that you seek the guidance of an experienced divorce attorney who is completely au fait with the laws of your State.
Your lawyer will need to refer back to the original ruling; if it is linked to non-modifiable spousal support and if it contains language which states that it cannot be changed. Did you sign away your right to request a modification after the initial ruling? You may need to return to court to appeal for a modified judgment, resulting in a lower payment or a complete halt to payments. You will need plenty of documentary evidence and a strong case for reduced obligations.
Factors that would aid your case could include your spouse becoming self-sufficient and may now be earning more than you. Such things do happen! We must stress time and again that it is essential you consult your attorney about how alimony payments can be reduced or eliminated in a totally legal manner. You must demonstrate to the court that you are acting in a correct manner and that you have assembled the facts to support your case.