NJ alimony modification under economic strain
- March 3, 2010
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Change of Circumstances on the part of the payor or payee is required for an unscheduled modification of alimony in matrimonial matters. In light of recent economic factors, many spouses find themseleves in a different position financially than they anticipated when negotiating property settlement agreements or when they presented testimony relating to their finances to a judge who established alimony. This has resulted in many payors seeking reduction of alimony to former spouses. This week, the New Jersey Appellate Court reaffirmed that any requests for reduction in alimony must be well supported and that a mere claim of reduced income without adequate factual basis or increased expenses without justification will not satisfy payor’s burden of proving changed circumstances necessitating a reduction in alimony.
In Kisberg v. Kisberg, the parties negotiated their settlement and the payor should have been aware of his financial means and accounted for differences between existing conditions and potential changes. The downturn in the economy was not viewed by the court as an adequate explanation, without further proof, that the new circumstances could not have been contemplated at the time the agreement was entered into. A negotiated settlement, if reasonable and fair to both parties, is a wise option. When a party feels they are being economically pressured into arriving at a settlement agreement they are taking a calculated risk and balancing present financial strain against possible future finacial strain.
Whether it is the payor or payee who feels compelled to enter into a settlement agreement they are truly unhappy with, for economic or any other reason, they must bear in mind they will be required to give testimony on the record during the divorce proceeding. The testimony will include, at least, the following: they negotiated the agreement, were not coerced or under duress, reveiwed it, discussed it with their attorney, had adequate opportunity to think about it, had adequate opportunity to ask questions about it, were satisfied with the answers to any questions asked and only after all of those things did they sign it. After making such assertions on the record, it is very difficult to later show that there is an actual change in circumstances that could not be forseen at the time the agreement was entered into.
When entering into a negotiated settlement as to alimony it is always wise that a party either review it thoroughly with counsel and make sure that their attorney is aware of all circumstances, including long-term recurring illness of the payor or payee, work history of both parties, education, earning capacity of parties, and anything else which may come to bear upon the future income of either the payor or payee in the matter.
For more information on New Jersey matrimonial matters or to obtain counsel visit HeatherDarlingLawyer.com.