Financial Setbacks and Alimony in NJ: How to Get Relief

Financial Hardship Can Be Especially Difficult for Those Paying Alimony, Who May Need to Go to Court to Get Their Payments Reduced in New Jersey

Financial Setbacks and Alimony in NJ: How to Get ReliefToday’s families are working harder than ever to financially keep their heads above water. Even with a combined income, older cars, and a strict budget, many cannot save, let alone invest in their retirement. When divorce strikes, the expense of one household becomes that of two. Legal costs, extra transportation costs for parenting time, housing, utilities, and food bills also increase.

A recent article published by Forbes magazine shows that as many as two-thirds of Americans live paycheck to paycheck during all or part of the year. 46% say their financial woes are consistent throughout the year, while 18% say their financial solvency varies based on income or expenditure fluctuations.  Even if they aren’t living from paycheck to paycheck, 78% of those surveyed indicated a monthly surplus of $200 or less each month.

The ever-rising cost of goods and services, healthcare, and housing are squeezing the financial belt of wage earners in the lower, middle, and upper-middle classes.  Many families are one paycheck away from homelessness.  Earnings are not keeping up with the cost of living, and many families are forced to work a second job, even when both partners are working full-time.  61% of heads of households shared that a $1,000 unforeseen expense (such as car trouble or health issues) would cause them serious financial hardship. Heavy reliance on credit cards to pay utilities, groceries, and other staples can also lead to further debt, lower credit scores, and less access to credit in the future.

Navigating Financial Challenges After Divorce

Divorce can be a financial disaster; as The Balance’s financial column points out, “Researchers estimate that divorced spouses would, on average, need more than a 30 percent increase in their income to maintain the same standard of living they had prior to their divorce.” This stark reality highlights the importance of understanding and managing alimony payments in the face of such a financial crisis.  A divided house would only throw gasoline on an existing blaze if a family struggled to make ends meet under the same roof.  Frequently, the payor of alimony experiences grave financial hardship that requires a petition to the courts to lessen the financial burden caused by alimony.

Maximizing Fairness in Your New Jersey Alimony Settlement

Before looking at the numbers, it is essential to note that New Jersey does not offer permanent alimony. A standard measure is that alimony is paid for an equal number of years as the length of the marriage. This is not a hard and fast rule but is considered typical. When deciding on an amount for alimony, both spouses’ present and anticipated incomes are used to determine the amount of support.  It is unrealistic to expect someone who has been on the lower end of the wage spectrum or hasn’t been working at all to reach an income comparable to that of the household’s breadwinner. If one partner has been unemployed for several years, they could require additional education or training to be competitive in the job market.  Known as rehabilitative alimony, it can be used as a finite financial boost when they return to the workforce.

Although New Jersey does not have a specific formula for calculating spousal support when both spouses have jobs, one-fourth to one-fifth of the net difference between each spouse’s annual earnings is used as a base amount. Household expenses, debts, and assets awarded in equitable distribution can raise or lower that amount.

For example, Deacon earns $120,000, and Rhiley makes $50,000 annually. As the difference is $70,000 a year, 25% would mean a monthly alimony payment of $1,666.67, while 20% would mean a payment of $1,458.33.  This is a beginning number that provides a starting point for the court.

How to Get Alimony Modified After Job Loss in New Jersey

New Jersey law allows the paying spouse to apply for modification of spousal support after being unemployed for 90 days. The court considers factors such as the paying spouse’s efforts to find new employment, the spouse’s income receiving alimony, and the possibility of finding employment in the meantime. The court will also examine why the spouse’s income has changed, whether a severance package was offered, whether both parties are in good health, and if there have been other changes in either party’s financial circumstances since alimony was initially implemented.  It is at the court’s discretion to provide temporary relief to modify alimony by temporarily suspending spousal support.

Properly Handling Alimony Difficulties Due to Unforeseen Circumstances

The worst action to take is none at all. Ghosting your ex or moving out of town are not viable solutions and can get you in serious legal trouble. Non-payment of alimony can result in fines, a loss of your driver’s license, and jail time in the most severe circumstances.

Request that your alimony payments be modified, at least temporarily, while you seek gainful employment. Provide the court with documentation such as pay stubs, bank statements, bills, and debt balances.  It is also essential to show the court your efforts to find a new job as quickly as possible.  A quick printout of your Sent Mail folder can demonstrate your attempts.

Options for Negotiating Changes in Alimony Agreements

Hashing things out with your ex doesn’t mean you have to do it entirely on your own. In fact, couples rarely create an equitable agreement on their own, and that makes sense. Were they able to agree on major decisions, they probably would not be divorcing.  It is valuable for each party to have an attorney who can advise them of their rights.  A couple can participate in mediation or arbitration to agree in a more formal setting.  Both provide an arena for compromise, active listening, and problem-solving and can shorten the process substantially.  This means fewer visits to an office and less legal expense.  Couples can usually agree to split the cost of a mediator, but if that isn’t possible, the paying party can receive credit for it in the alimony settlement.  Another advantage is that the court system is slow and clogged to the gills.  Family court judges favor divorcing couples who can make important decisions on their own, making the court’s job easier.

Steps to Get Alimony Modified After Job Loss in Montclair, New JerseyOne of the most significant disadvantages to negotiating a modification of alimony with your ex out of court is the lack of legal protection.  If you don’t hire an attorney to at least provide you with the guidelines you need to make an informed decision, you may not get what you legally have a right to.  Incomplete agreements or those that involve unenforceable terms can also be a disadvantage.  Knowledge of the law is a necessity in this situation.  Limited legal recourse can result when a decision is made without knowing what is allowed to agree to this kind.  Lastly, negotiating with an ex-partner can be too much of an emotional burden.  Sometimes, hurt feelings and raw emotions alter how details are perceived.  In some cases, one party may exert undue influence or intimidation, leading to an agreement that is neither voluntary nor equitable.

Can’t Afford Your Alimony Payments? Consult a North Jersey Lawyer at Montanari Law Group about Your Options

To say that getting a divorce is stressful would be an understatement of the greatest degree.  It is the ending of what was once a union, a family, and a future together.  It is a complex process that requires patience, attention to detail, and the support of a skilled divorce attorney who will listen to your concerns and the guidance you need to protect your rights.

Our experienced family law attorneys at The Montanari Law Group have helped clients just like you who need excellent representation while dealing with modification of alimony due to financial setbacks.  We can take the emotional factor out of the equation and represent you based on the details of your case in Montvale, Paterson, Montclair, West Orange, Caldwell, Wayne, and throughout Northern New Jersey.  We are meticulous fact-finders and will compile all the financial information necessary to resolve or settle your case.

Call us for a free consultation today at (973) 233-4396 or complete a contact form so that we can respond promptly.


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