Whether you are receiving alimony or paying alimony, it is important to know that all support obligations in NJ are subject to modification. This guide will provide you with the legal standard (what the judge may consider) when evaluating your motion to modify the alimony amount.
Moving party (the party who wants the alimony amount changed)
The moving party in an alimony modification proceeding has the burden of proving a prima facie case of changed circumstances prior to the court ordering discovery, full financial disclosure of both parties, and a plenary hearing. Lepis v. Lepis, 83 N.J. 139, 157-159 (1980). Whether or not a party has experienced changed circumstances derives from a comparison of the parties' economic life during the marriage with the present economic conditions. Id. at 148. In assessing whether a change has occurred in a case involving an economically dependent spouse, the considerations are "the dependent spouse's needs, that spouse's ability to contribute to the fulfillment of those needs, and the supporting spouse's ability to maintain the dependent spouse at the former standard." Id. at 152. Courts have recognized “changed circumstances” that warrant modification in a variety of settings. Id. at 151.
What may constitute a change in circumstances
1. An increase/or decrease in the supporting spouse's income (it should be substantial if this is the only chance in circumstances);
2. Significant change for the better in the dependent spouse's circumstances;
3. Decrease in the supporting spouse's income and increase in the dependent spouse's income (combination);
4. cohabitation coupled with economic circumstances (commingling of bank accounts, assets, etc.);
5. Serious medical condition preventing the supporting spouse to earn the income he/she earned at the time alimony was calculated;
In cohabitation cases, once an ex-spouse seeking to modify or terminate alimony makes a prima facie showing of the alimony recipient’s cohabitation, the burden of proof shifts to the recipient to prove that he or she is not deriving any economic benefit from the cohabitating third party. Ozolins v. Ozolins, 308 N.J. Super. 243, 248-49 (App. Div. 1998).
Authored by: Aneliya Angelova