Post-Judgment Modification to Alimony and Other Issues in New Jersey
September 12, 2017
In a recent New Jersey divorce decision, a wife appealed from post-judgment orders. The case arose after the parties got married and then divorced almost 15 years later. They had one child and entered into a marital settlement agreement that set forth the equitable distribution of assets, alimony, and child-related issues like child custody, child support, and visitation.
In 2015, the ex-husband moved the court for various remedies, including terminating or reducing his alimony obligation to his ex-wife. The ex-wife opposed and cross-moved. The court ordered the former couple to economic mediation and established temporary child support from the ex-wife to the ex-husband in the amount of $40 per week. The former couple went to mediation but couldn’t resolve their differences.
In September 2015, the plaintiff filed a motion seeking specified financial documents from the defendant. The defendant opposed the motion.
Three months later, subsequent to oral argument on the pending motions, an order was entered that, among other matters, decreased the defendant’s alimony obligation. The plaintiff filed a motion for reconsideration and then appealed.
The former wife asked for an interest in a retirement fund that was supposed to be equitably distributed under the settlement agreement. This motion was opposed. The judge permitted the ex-wife to hire a forensic accountant to see whether the annuity had value at the time the couple filed for divorce. The ex-husband asked for reconsideration, and the judge granted the motion. The ex-wife appealed.
The appellate court explained that it could only reverse if it were necessary because the family court’s conclusions were clearly mistaken. One of the ex-wife’s appeals had to do with an order requiring her to pay temporary child support, and that reduced the ex-husband’s alimony obligation, among other things. She argued that she wasn’t told the issue of alimony would be brought up at the hearing and that the judge was biased.
The appellate court explained the judge had supplemented the record to explain why he’d decreased the ex-husband’s alimony obligations under N.J.S.A. 2A:34-23. The ex-husband had turned 74, and because of his age, he claimed he couldn’t work 40-hour weeks. He’d given a copy of a paystub showing he worked part-time hours. The ex-husband could have retired to get full retirement benefits eight years before but continued to work.
The judge also considered his poor health based on his age. The judge also considered the growth of the ex-husband’s assets. The judge noted that the ex-wife had received an equal amount of equitable distribution and used most of it, and the judge found that the ex-husband shouldn’t be punished for investing intelligently with his own share. The judge also looked at the wife’s income, circumstances, and efforts to be employed. She owned and operated her own business, which was a failing investment.
The appellate court explained alimony could be altered under N.J.S.A. 2A:34-23 by showing changed circumstances that are not temporary and have already occurred. Retirement could count as a change in circumstances. The appellate court affirmed the lower court’s decision.
If you are considering a divorce in Bergen County, and you are concerned about your financial security, or you need a modification to orders made during a divorce, it is important to retain an experienced alimony attorney to seek an appropriate outcome. Contact the lawyers of Leopold Law at (201) 345-5907 or through our online form. We have attorneys available who can handle all aspects of a divorce.