The amount of alimony that an ex-spouse must pay to the other is set initially at the time of the divorce. However, since the financial situation of both parties after the divorce is likely to change, New Jersey law allows for the modification (or even termination) of alimony. If you need legal assistance or advice in seeking—or defending against—a request for a modification of alimony, Bergen County alimony modification lawyer Howard B. Leopold can help. For over 25 years, he has zealously represented many Northern New Jersey residents who need an alimony attorney to guide them through these matters.When is a Modification of Alimony Appropriate?
Alimony is a financial arrangement designed to help a lower-earning spouse adjust to their new economic realities following a divorce. It is not a marriage-related debt, nor is it a means to mete out “justice” for the failure of a marriage. Instead, it is based upon the idea that, when they are married, a couple operates as a single economic unit in which both spouses contribute equally to the economic success of the union, regardless of how much income each spouse earns. Alimony is intended to protect non-earning or lower-earning spouses from facing the immediate financial hardship that the dissolution of the marriage might otherwise bring and enable them to live, to the extent possible, at the same standard of living that they enjoyed during married life, at least until they are able to achieve financial independence.
However fair and reasonable this sounds, however, alimony is often contentious. When the divorce decree is issued, it is common that a spouse paying alimony feels that they are “not really divorced,” since the payer continues to be obliged—at least for a time—to support their ex-spouse. Under these circumstances, it is common for payer spouses to seek a modification that will result in a reduction or termination of alimony. Conversely, a payee spouse will not infrequently seek to increase the amount of alimony or to extend the term of alimony.
The legal standard that a court applies in reviewing a request for a modification of alimony is “changed circumstances.” Typical situations that constitute “changed circumstances” include an involuntary job change that results in a lower income for either the payer or the payee spouse, the retirement of the payer spouse, a significant increase in the payee spouse’s income, or a disability or injury that affects the income potential of either the payer or the payee spouse. An alimony modification attorney in Bergen County can explain in greater detail whether a modification may be appropriate in your circumstances.
Not every change will warrant a modification. The change must be both permanent and substantial. For example, even though a job loss will have a material effect on a party’s income, a court will not consider a job loss to be a “changed circumstance” until the unemployment has lasted for an extended period of time (currently, at least three months). Furthermore, that party must show that the job loss was involuntary and that they have made and are making good-faith efforts to find comparable employment at a comparable rate of pay.
The petitioner (that is, the person asking for the modification) is the party who must establish that circumstances have changed. If the petitioner is seeking a reduction of alimony, for example, they must show that their income has been significantly reduced, that the respondent’s needs have been significantly reduced, or that the respondent’s income has significantly increased. A petitioner who is requesting an increase must show that their needs have materially increased or that their income has significantly decreased—again, involuntarily. As part of the court’s review of the matter, both parties will be required to disclose their complete financial information, including tax returns.Seek Assistance from an Alimony Modification Lawyer in Bergen County
One way to avoid undue strife in modification of alimony proceedings is by addressing, ahead of time, the conditions that would justify a future modification in the original alimony agreement. But whether you need help drafting an agreement or representation in seeking or opposing an application for a modification of alimony, you should obtain legal advice from a Bergen County alimony modification attorney to make sure that your rights and interests are protected. If you need help in this type of matter, contact divorce lawyer Howard B. Leopold. Call us at 201-345-5907 or contact us online for a free initial consultation. Leopold Law represents people in Hackensack, Paterson, Jersey City, Newark, and other areas of Bergen, Passaic, Hudson, and Essex Counties.