Post-Judgment Alimony Dispute Leads To Appeals
- July 13, 2015
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In Dondona v. Dondona, a case appealed out of Morris County, the Defendant appealed from a 2014 Court Order that denied her post-judgment cross-motion to increase the alimony payments being made to her by the Plaintiff. The Appellate Court reversed the decision of the lower court. The parties in this case were married in 1984 and obtained a divorce in 2008. One child was born during the marriage. The parties executed a property settlement agreement (PSA) that was incorporated into their final divorce judgment which required the Plaintiff to pay $600 a month in alimony to the Defendant until their child was emancipated, and then the alimony was to increase to $950 a month. The PSA also specified that if the circumstances between the parties changed, they would come to an agreement with respect to the change or make an application to the court to resolve the dispute. In 2009, the Defendant began living with another man and the Plaintiff stopped making his alimony payments. In 2010, the Plaintiff filed a motion to terminate his alimony obligation altogether. In 2012, the parties executed a Consent Order in which the Plaintiff agreed to pay $375 a month for alimony until further Order of the court or consent of the parties. In 2014, the Plaintiff filed a Motion to emancipate the parties’ daughter and for the termination of his alimony obligation due to the Defendant’s six (6) years of cohabitation. The Defendant filed a cross-motion for alimony payments of $950 as was originally set forth in the PSA. The Plaintiff also claimed that his financial circumstances had changed and he was making much less than money than when the parties divorced. The Family Court judge granted the request to emancipate the parties’ daughter but denied the motion to terminate alimony. Further, the Defendant’s motion for an increase in alimony to $950 was also denied, and the Plaintiff was required to continue paying $375 a month. According to the Appellate Division, it needed to determine if each party presented a prima facie case of changed circumstances to warrant a termination or modification of alimony. Lepis v. Lepis, 83 N.J. 139, 146 (1980). Both parties were seeking a change in alimony. The PSA provided that if the circumstances between the parties were to change, they could come to an agreement or request that the court make a determination. The Consent Order was an agreement between the parties to change the alimony amount at that specific time until they either came to a new agreement or a Court Order modified the amount. The Appellate Division held that both parties had provided sufficient financial information for the Family Court to order appropriate discovery and make detailed findings of fact as to a new alimony determination. Therefore, it reversed the decision of the Family Court and remanded the case back there for further proceedings to determine an appropriate alimony obligation. Being that the laws governing alimony have recently been changed, it is very important that you seek out the advice of an attorney to protect your rights an entitlements. If you think that it may be beneficial for you to petition the court for a post-judgment modification of your alimony obligation or for any other reason it is imperative that you seek out the advice of an experienced attorney before moving forward. For more information about alimony, divorce, post-judgment modification, child support, or other family law matters in New Jersey visit the DarlingFirm.com. This blog is for informational purposes and in no way is intended to replace the advice of an attorney.