In an uncertain economy, for many people who have alimony obligations, there is a good chance that the length of time they need to pay alimony will end up being a lot longer than they are employed in their current job.
Rarely do people plan to be unemployed, or have a serious downturn in income but it does happen. What it does, and you suddenly cannot afford those alimony payments, is it grounds to modify or alter your alimony obligation?
You Can Modify Alimony – If You Wait
Under New Jersey law, losing your job is grounds to change your alimony obligation (that is, to lower it or temporarily stop payments), but you cannot do it immediately. You must wait 90 days before you legally file a petition with the court asking to alter your alimony payment.
Additionally, you cannot unilaterally change your alimony–you must continue paying the agreed upon or ordered amount, until the court officially orders a modification (although the court can, later, make any downward modification retroactive, thus absolving you of missed payments from before the downward modification order was entered).
What Will a Court Look at?
When you are in court asking to have alimony lowered, a court will want to know whether you have made any effort to find more, better, or any re-employment. Placing artificial parameters on finding a new job-such as refusing to accept work that pays under a certain amount, or refusing to accept a job because you do not like the work, will not allow you to modify your alimony downward.
The court will also ask why you are unemployed or why your income was reduced, and the court generally will not allow a downward modification if your financial hardship is intentional or purposeful.
However, the court is allowed to ask whether a conscious and intentional decision to accept employment at a lower salary is objectively reasonable. This can happen in a lot of situations, such as if someone takes a lower salary at first, when there is higher earning potential later on, or if, for some reason, the initial job that the alimony payor had was artificially or unreasonably high or inflated.
Reducing alimony is not an easy task, and courts hear a lot of requests to lower alimony. They also deny many of those requests–but it is not impossible. However, although difficult, it is equally difficult for someone to later request an increase in alimony, so there is some benefit in the process taking time and not being very easy.
There is no way to tell what your payment amount will be reduced to, if it is reduced. There is no calculator or set formula for determining or lowering alimony payments in New Jersey.
Contact our New Jersey family law and alimony attorneys at The Law Office of Agnes Rybar LLC today to help you with alimony or child support problems that you may have.