The Governor of New Jersey recently enacted legislation that significantly changes the state’s rules regarding alimony. One of the major changes to what many people feel was an outdated set of alimony rules is that judges now have more discretion in modifying alimony payments.
In the past, alimony orders were rigid, and they were very difficult to modify. When someone who was under an obligation to pay alimony lost a job, retired, or was forced to take a pay cut, there was little sympathy for them when they failed to make their alimony payments. It was not uncommon for courts to routinely dismiss motions that were filed by individuals who were challenging their alimony obligations. In some cases, people were even sent to jail after failing to pay the alimony that they had been ordered to pay, even though said failure was based upon a change in their financial circumstances, and not on any willful or malicious intent to deprive the recipient of that money.
The new New Jersey alimony rules offer more flexibility to people who lose their job, retire, or experience some other change in their financial circumstances which makes it difficult for them to meet their original alimony payment obligation. Losing a job certainly makes it a challenge to meet all kinds of financial obligations, including those that keep people housed and fed. The new alimony rules provide for unemployed people who pay alimony to petition the court for a modification of alimony after ninety days without work. When courts look at petitions to modify or terminate alimony payments based upon a change in financial circumstances, they will consider the obligor’s efforts in obtaining employment, the reasons for unemployment or underemployment, and the potential impact of a change on the obligee’s financial circumstances.
When people retire, their income situation often changes, as they move from earning a salary to collecting a pension. It is not uncommon for retirees to have trouble adjusting to the change in income, and they often find it difficult to provide for their basic needs, let alone their alimony payments. Because of this, the new alimony rules contain a provision for modification or termination of alimony payments upon retirement. When an individual becomes eligible for full Social Security at age sixty seven, there is now a rebuttable presumption in place which terminates their obligation to pay alimony to their former spouse. An alimony recipient may challenge the presumption in situations where an application of the presumption could be unfair, such as when someone wishes to retire before full retirement age, when the obligee was financially dependent on the obligor during the marriage, the ages of the parties, and the amount of alimony which has already been paid, among other things. An obligor can also petition the court for modification or suspension of their alimony payments if the recipient cohabitates with another person for more than three months.
If your financial circumstances have changed and you are having a difficult time making your alimony payments, it is important that you immediately consult with a knowledgeable New Jersey Divorce Attorney. The New Jersey Divorce Attorneys at Micklin Law Group can help you to understand how a modification of your alimony obligation could be pursued, and they can help you to pursue a modification if your circumstances warrant it. Please call our office today, at (973)-562-0100, to schedule a free, initial consultation.