It is not uncommon for there to be a disparity in incomes between a husband and wife. Sometimes one spouse does not have any income at all, as a result of unforeseen unemployment or being a stay-at-home parent. In these cases, especially in marriages of long duration, the economically disadvantaged spouse may be awarded spousal support at the end of the divorce proceedings. Spousal support is designed to help the spouse with a smaller income potential to raise his or her income, get on his or her feet, and make a new life. The majority of spousal support orders are for a limited duration. There are some cases when reducing or eliminating support orders before the date set out in the original order may be appropriate. The spouse seeking to reduce the spousal support must prove that there is a change of circumstances that has occurred since the entry of the final decree of divorce.
If the paying spouse experiences a reduction in income, this may be such a change in circumstances, and a reason to reduce an award of spousal support. However, this reduction of income cannot be temporary. Rather, it must be a permanent reduction. For example, if spousal support is set based on an average of several years of income, showing that a spouse’s income for just the past year was lower than the average may very well be insufficient to prove a permanent change of income.
This reduction of income must also be involuntary. In other words, the paying spouse cannot elect to quit his or her high-paying job simply in order to reduce or eliminate spousal support. In such a situation, the court may impute an income to the spouse, even though he or she does not actually have any more income. This means that the court will continue to set support awards based on the income from the job that the paying spouse voluntarily left. It should be noted, however, that New Jersey law makes an exception for retirement at normal age of retirement for Social Security. In such a case, spousal support will end unless the receiving spouse files a motion and proves that he or she has continued need of the support.
Finally, remarriage of the receiving spouse also affects alimony. If a receiving spouse remarries, the paying spouse’s support obligation will automatically terminate.Spousal support is a complex area, and modifications can become even more convoluted. We have helped our clients with setting spousal support as well as modifications after the divorce is over. Contact us today at (732) 529-6937 to discuss your spousal support and your divorce.