iandoli & edens, llc

WEEK 4

Now What? Job Loss and Alimony

            Alimony is based upon the circumstances at the time of the divorce.  With respect to the amount of alimony a significant factor is the supporting spouse’s income and the dependent spouse’s income or imputed income.  However, as we know life brings changes.  Unfortunately, a common change people face is a loss of a job.  This raises difficult questions:  What happens if the supporting spouse loses their job?  Are they still required to pay the same amount of alimony?

The answer to the second question is yes – temporarily at least. If the supporting spouse works for someone else and is terminated they can make an application to the Court for a reduction or termination of alimony based upon the loss of employment.  However, they can only make that application after 90 days.  During those 90 days the supporting spouse is expected to make all support payments.  The Court when it finally hears the application for reduction or termination of alimony based upon the job loss has the discretion to make the relief granted retroactive to the date of employment.  This means that the supporting spouse may be entitled to a refund of alimony payments or a credit on future payments if they continued to pay the full amount of alimony while unemployed.

There are several factors that the Court addresses when reviewing a reduction of alimony based upon loss of employment. Perhaps, the most significant factor is that the loss of employment is involuntary.  A supporting spouse cannot just quit their job because they are upset either with their job or with paying alimony and then request a reduction or termination.  The supporting spouse cannot avoid their alimony obligation by choosing to be un-employed or underemployed.  However, the Court will absolutely address an involuntary termination or reduction in income after the above-mentioned 90 day period.  The factors the Court reviews are contained in N.J.S.A.2A:34-23(k)(1-10):

(1) The reasons for any loss of income;

(2) Under circumstances where there has been a loss of employment, the obligor’s documented efforts to obtain replacement employment or to pursue an alternative occupation;

(3) Under circumstances where there has been a loss of employment, whether the obligor is making a good faith effort to find remunerative employment at any level and in any field;

(4) The income of the obligee; the obligee’s circumstances; and the obligee’s reasonable efforts to obtain employment in view of those circumstances and existing opportunities;

(5) The impact of the parties’ health on their ability to obtain employment;

(6) Any severance compensation or award made in connection with any loss of employment;

(7) Any changes in the respective financial circumstances of the parties that have occurred since the date of the order from which modification is sought;

(8) The reasons for any change in either party’s financial circumstances since the date of the order from which modification is sought, including, but not limited to, assessment of the extent to which either party’s financial circumstances at the time of the application are attributable to enhanced earnings or financial benefits received from any source since the date of the order;

(9) Whether a temporary remedy should be fashioned to provide adjustment of the support award from which modification is sought, and the terms of any such adjustment, pending continuing employment investigations by the unemployed spouse or partner;

and (10) Any other factor the court deems relevant to fairly and equitably decide the application.

As can be seen from the above-factors the Court not only reviews the change of circumstances of the supporting spouse, but of the dependent spouse as well. Courts frequently review alimony awards based upon all sorts of changed circumstances, not just loss of employment.  As we will address in the coming weeks new relationships and reaching retirement age are often considered changed circumstances that can affect alimony.

If you have any questions regarding alimony and how it relates to your case we are available to discuss your concerns with you, please call our firm at 908-879-9499.