Divorce FAQ's

Some Helpful Advice on Reducing Alimony

1. How can the recession improve my chances to reduce/eliminate my alimony payments?

Massive job losses and pay cuts have caused many divorced men to file a record amount of motions to reduce or even terminate their alimony payments. The new reality is that the economy has collapsed, and now many divorced men simply can’t afford to “scrape out” a living and still pay their alimony. Of course we have heard about the big banks and the big three auto companies collapsing. However, we have not heard all that much about how the economic meltdown has caused havoc on divorced men all across of New Jersey. The cold hard reality is that the collapsed economy has made life miserable for thousands of unemployed or underemployed divorced men who simply can’t find work and who still owe high alimony payments.

With New Jersey leading the nation in unemployment at approximately 10%, its highest level in 25 years, it is no surprise that the family courts are now flooded with motions to reduce alimony. With reduced or no income, many divorced men are unable to make their court-ordered alimony payments because of their reduced ability to pay. There are good, hard-working people out there who are not irresponsible, but who are just unable to meet their financial obligations in this tough economy. Thankfully, a person does have legal options in the family court system if he can’t make his alimony payments. However, the distressed alimony payor must provide concrete proof of his “tale of woe.” He must provide proof that he has lost his job, received a pay cut, lost some of his commissions, he has less overtime work available, or that he has suffered health problems.

2. What are some tips on how to reduce alimony?

A. You should immediately contact an experienced lawyer and set up a meeting. The lawyer can advise you of your chances of success if you file a motion to reduce your alimony. The family courts are fully aware of the economic meltdown, and they are now more willing than ever to grant alimony reduction motions if there are strong grounds. The worst thing that you can do if you have lost your job or if your income has drastically reduced is to simply mope around and do nothing. If you simply complain about your high alimony payments then they will never be reduced.

B. If you are on good terms with your ex-wife, then you might want to call her up and talk to her to ascertain if she would be willing to accept a lower alimony payment. If you are able to reach an agreement with her then you could then prepare a written agreement that is called a consent order. The consent order will then have to be filed with the family court. If you file a consent order with the court then you won’t to have to pay big money to a lawyer to file an alimony reduction motion. The consent order could also provide that alimony could be reviewed again if your income should increase or if you should find a better job. Your ex-wife may be more willing to sign a consent order if this type of provision is inserted into the consent order.

C. If you can’t afford to make the full alimony payment, then you should at least pay your ex-wife a part of the payment on a regular basis. If  you have a track record of making good faith payments to your ex-wife then your odds of winning your motion increase substantially. Moreover, if you have a track record of good faith dealings with your ex-wife then this factor could be a “feather in your cap” when you argue your case before the court. The courts are much more inclined to grant your motion if you have a history of dealing with your ex-wife in good faith.

D. You must be prepared to exhaustively document your motion. According to New Jersey law you are only entitled to a reduction in alimony if there is a major change of circumstance(s). The term “change of circumstance(s) is a legal term of art and it is subject to a vast array of different legal and factual interpretations. If you have lost your job then you must provide the court with your termination papers. If you can’t find work then you must provide the court with e-mails and letters that prove that you have been “pounding the pavement  and looking for work.” If your paycheck has been reduced, then you must provide documentation that verifies same. If you have suffered health problems, then attach your medical reports to your motion. If you are “up to your eyeballs” in debt, then you should attach your credit card bills, tax debts, car repossession bills, etc. to your motion. In summary, in any alimony reduction motion you have to “paint a picture of dread.” This can be accomplished by creating a detailed appendix as part of your motion. Moreover, it is important to attach your pay-stubs and tax returns to your motion. It is imperative that you prove to the court that your income is plummeting.

E. You should always consider whether you could actually terminate your alimony payments once and for all. Alimony can also be terminated based on the grounds of cohabitation and on your retirement. Moreover, perhaps your ex-wife no longer needs any alimony because she has obtained an inheritance, obtained a better job, won a cash award from a lawsuit, or for some other reason. In my experience, the courts are much more open minded about reducing alimony in these hard times. Therefore, if you have some legitimate grounds as to why you believe your alimony should be reduced then you should “go for it.”

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