Alimony Modification Sought By Private Business Owner
- August 20, 2013
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In a motion to modify alimony, the party bringing the motion must demonstrate a clear case of changed circumstances before the court will entertain the motion. A prima facie (obvious on its face) showing of changed circumstances is required before the court will order discovery or in any way further the matter. In a case where the parties enter into a settlement agreement, change can be even more difficult to explain because, unlike when a judge binds one to the decision of the court, those entering into negotiated agreements had the opportunity to consider their own circumstances and negotiate what they believe to be a fair bargain. In Trammell v. Trammell, the parties arrived at an agreement but the plaintiff later fell on hard times when his business slowed considerably to the point of a Chapter 11 bankruptcy filing. Plaintiff was the sole member and shareholder of the business and had take substantial loans from the business prior to filing bankruptcy. Alimony went into substantial arrears, an insurance policy the plaintiff agreed to give the defendant was cancelled for non-payment and the court issued a warrant for plaintiff’s arrest. Plaintiff filed a motion to terminate alimony, forgive alimony arrears and terminate the requirement that he maintain the insurance policy for defendant’s benefit. The NJ Superior Court Judge hearing the matter denied the motion on the basis that plaintiff’s imputed income at the time the parties entered into their settlement agreement was $66,000 per year and, even if not through his own business, the plaintiff was still able to work and earn a similar amount. The judge reviewed the prior year’s tax return and decided the reduction to $60,500 per year from $66,000 per year was not a great and lasting change in circumstances that the plaintiff could no longer afford to pay alimony and support himself therefore requiring modification of the parties matrimonial settlement agreement (MSA). If you are filing or challenging a motion to modify a support obligation, you should consult an experienced family law attorney immediately to protect your rights. For more information on alimony, child support, post-judgment modification, dissolution or other family law matters in New Jersey visit HeatherDarlingLawyer.com. This blog is for informational purposes and in no way intended to replace the advice of an attorney.