Can Limited Duration Alimony be Modified?

Written by: Marissa Del Mauro

An award of limited duration alimony sets alimony for a finite period of time. Meaning, at a date agreed upon by both parties and set forth in the parties’ Marital Settlement Agreement, the alimony will terminate.

Despite the finite date set in the Marital Settlement Agreement, the New Jersey alimony statute as codified under N.J.S.A. 2A:34-23(c) provides for the opportunity for limited duration alimony to be modified based upon either changed circumstances or the nonoccurrence of circumstances that, at the time of the entry of the award, were contemplated to occur in the future. The specific language of the statue is as follows:

“An award of alimony for a limited duration may be modified based either upon changed circumstances, or upon the nonoccurrence of circumstances that the court found would occur at the time of the award. The court may modify the amount of such an award, but shall not modify the length of the term except in unusual circumstances. In determining the length of the term, the court shall consider the length of time it would reasonably take for the recipient to improve his or her earning capacity to a level where limited duration alimony is no longer appropriate.”

Examples of changed circumstances may be a loss of income by the recipient or a significant increase in the income of the payor. The nonoccurrence of circumstances that were anticipated at the time the agreement was written may be the inability of the recipient to obtain employment at a certain level income by the agreed upon end date of the alimony payments. An example of such nonoccurrence of circumstances could be the inability of a recipient to obtain a nursing job making a certain amount of money after she is finished earning her nursing degree.

It is important to emphasize that the amount of limited duration alimony may be modified, but the duration of the payment shall not be modified unless unusual circumstances have occurred.

When drafting language in a Marital Settlement Agreement, it is best practice for the parties to agree upon specific language that would be representative of changed circumstances, anticipated circumstances that were taken into consideration to occur in the future, and unusual circumstances that would warrant a review of the length of the award.

As you can see, the proper negotiation and drafting of a Marital Settlement Agreement pertaining to limited duration alimony is imperative. For more information regarding divorce and alimony, contact the legal team at the Law Office of Lyons & Associates. At the law office of Lyons & Associates, we represent men and women throughout New Jersey who have unresolved family law matters. We place a premium on personalized service and attention. For a private consultation, contact us by e-mail, view our website at www.lyonspc.com, or call our office at 908-271-8998.