If you have recently or not so recently entered into a divorce agreement that obligates you to pay a certain amount of alimony, you may find yourself in a bind should you no longer be able to meet your obligation. N.J.S.A. 2A:34-23 states that orders entered as to alimony “may be revised and altered by the court from time to time as circumstances may require.” This means that you may be able to modify your obligation downward to an amount that you can actually pay.
This statute is further supported by case law, specifically Lepis, which states that the obligations that come along with alimony and support orders are always subject to review and modification on a showing of “changed circumstances.”
As a litigant potentially filing an application to lower your obligation, it is important to understand what burden you must overcome if your application is going to be successful. Courts employ a two-step process to determine whether or not there is a change in circumstance that would warrant review and modification of a pre-existing alimony award. What must be noted is that the party seeking the modification bears the burden of proving that such changed circumstances exist and that the relief sought is warranted.
The two-step test is as follows:
A prima facie showing of changed circumstances must be made before a court will order discovery of an ex-spouse’s financial status. When the movant is seeking modification of an alimony award, that party must demonstrate that changed circumstances have substantially impaired the ability to support himself or herself. This requires full disclosure of the dependent spouse’s financial status, including tax returns…Only after the movant has made this prima facie showing should the respondent’s ability to pay become a factor for the court to consider.
The important thing to realize is that there are different factors that can contribute to the downward modification of your support obligation and you may be entitled to a modification of any support amount you paying. Please contact us online or call our divorce lawyers in New Jersey at 908-575-9777 to schedule an appointment with Lyons & Associates if you are having trouble meeting your obligations.
Written by: William P. Lemega