Court Denies Husband Alimony Reduction Based On Pre And Post Marital Lifestyles
- September 11, 2014
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In the recent Appellate Division case, Katchisin v. Katchisin, the Defendant Thomas Katchisin, appealed from a denial of his post-judgment application to terminate or modify his alimony obligation to his ex-wife. In his appeal, the Defendant argued that he successfully demonstrated a change in circumstances based upon the Plaintiff’s increased income and disability status to warrant a modification of his alimony. The Appellate Court affirmed the decision of the Family Court based upon the pre and post divorce marital lifestyles of the parties. The parties in this case were married for twenty-eight (28) years and divorced in 2002. Their final divorce judgment incorporated a property settlement agreement (PSA) in which the Defendant agreed to pay to the Plaintiff $11,500 per year ($221 per week) in permanent alimony with the provision that “alimony shall terminate upon the death or either the plaintiff or the defendant [or] remarriage of the plaintiff, and may be reconsidered if the plaintiff cohabits with anyone per New Jersey case la at the time of such cohabitation.” In 2013, the Defendant filed an application with the court to terminate or reduce his alimony obligation due to changed circumstances resulting from his becoming 100% disabled after his retirement. At oral argument, the Defendant argued that his increased disability status, his retirement, and his decreased earnings represented a substantial change in circumstances warranting the termination or reduction of his alimony obligation. The Plaintiff argued that the Defendant’s income had actually increased and his income had become untaxed. The Family Court denied the Defendant’s Motion and noted that he did not present any evidence of his increased disability. In its holding, the Appellate Court found that “the purpose of alimony is to maintain the parties’ pre-separation standard of living.” Steneken v. Steneken, N.J. 290, 298-99 (2005). The court may award alimony ” as the circumstances of the parties and the nature of the case shall render fit, reasonable and just.” N.J.S.A. 2A:34-23. The award is always “subject to review or modification by our courts based upon a showing of changed circumstances.” Miller v. Miller, 160 N.J. 408, 419 (1999). In affirming the Family Courts denial of the Defendant’s Motion, the Appellate Division held that the lower court correctly addressed the modification issue by considering the Plaintiff’s standard of living at the time of the divorce, and comparing it to her standard of living today. The Family Court correctly determined that while the Defendant was, at present, living above the marital lifestyle, the Plaintiff could not achieve the prior marital lifestyle without the benefit of the original alimony award. If you anticipate that you may want to petition the court for a post-judgment modification of your alimony obligation or any other court mandated legal obligation it is critical that you seek out the advice of an experienced attorney before moving forward. For more information about alimony, post-judgment modification, divorce, child support, or other family law matters in New Jersey visit DarlingFirm.com. This blog is for informational purposes and in no way is intended to replace the advice of an attorney.