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Law Tutor, Esq.
Law Tutor, Esq., Lawyer
Category: Family Law
Satisfied Customers: 163
Experience:  N/A
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Have there been any cases where a motion for decreased or

Customer Question

Have there been any cases where a motion for decreased or eliminated alimony has been granted due to unemployment in NJ?
Submitted: 2 months ago.
Category: Family Law
Expert:  FamilyAttorney replied 2 months ago.

Hello and thanks for using Just Answer. I’m a licensed attorney with 36 years’ experience in family law appeals and landlord-tenant law. I look forward to helping you today.

At the end of this session, I will ask you to please rate me as that’s the only way I get credit for helping you. It is NO EXTRA CHARGE to you but it’s important to me! Thanks!

Please note:This is general information and is not legal advice. No specific course of action is proposed herein, and no attorney-client relationship or privilege is formed by speaking to an attorney on this site. This is for educational purposes only and you are advised to seek your own legal counsel. The attorney herein is licensed in NY only. I’ve also been doing family law for 36 years, which is a long time.

Also – I will be typing my answer for you so I’ll be back asap.

I'm sorry you find yourself in the position that you're in. Decreasing alimony is difficult, and eliminating it is nearly impossible. However there are cases and a leading case which shows that alimony can be decreased.

Expert:  FamilyAttorney replied 2 months ago.

Alimony can sometimes be modified upon a showing of a "change of circumstances." The party who is seeking a modification of alimony bears the burden of proving that there is a "change of circumstances." The party must show how the changed circumstances have impaired her ability to earn a reasonable living.

The leading NJ case about change in cirmcumstances is Lepis v. Lepis, 83 N.J. 139 (1980).

The Lepis holding is the major case that the family courts use to analyze alimony reduction applications. These types of hearings are often called Lepis cases. The court in Lepis v. Lepis, 83 N.J. 139 (1980), listed the following as some of the changed circumstances that courts have recognized as grounds to reduce alimony:

  • An increase in the cost of living.
  • An increase or decrease in supporting spouses' income.
  • Illness, disability, or infirmity after the divorce.
  • The loss of a house or apartment by the wife.
  • The former wife's cohabitation with another man.
  • Unemployment by the payor/husband.

The spouse who seeks a modification of alimony has the burden of showing "changed circumstances." If a party shows a change of circumstance then the court will grant the parties limited discovery. Basically, the parties will then exchange tax returns and pay stubs. The moving party must also prove that the changed circumstances have substantially impaired his/her ability to support himself or herself.

You will have to show that you are not unemployed intentionally and that you are actively looking for work. This will help you reduce alimony although there is no clear-cut answer to this. It will depend upon your specific set of circumstances.

Does this help you and answer your question?

Expert:  FamilyAttorney replied 2 months ago.

I make sure to go the extra mile to help my customers here. If you need names of family lawyers in your area I'm happy to find them if I know where in NJ you are located, biggest city near you. Thanks!

Expert:  FamilyAttorney replied 2 months ago.

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Customer: replied 2 months ago.
Thank you for your response. While I appreciate that Lepis and Crews delineate and recognize the possibility for change of circumstance, my question was really meant on a more practical level. I understand that there is a high bar in terms of "burden of proof" but before I make a formal motion wanted to know just how "rigged" or "biased" the system was against the petitioner. In short, are there any recent cases where someone prevailed? I ask specifically because despite being unemployed for over a year, I fully expect an answer saying that it could change next week.... There is no bright line and I'm just trying to get things as close as possible.Thanks
Expert:  FamilyAttorney replied 2 months ago.

I have information about it but cannot access NJ case law. I'll give you the information and then opt out to have someone else answer this. This is based on the new law signed by your governor in 2014.

Modification based on Unemployment

A major area of litigation under the new statute is post-judgment litigation to modify due to loss of income or unemployment. For the non-self-employed obligor, an application for modification may be brought after the party has been unemployed or not able to attain employment at the prior income levels for a period of 90 days.

The new law is clear: we can now bring applications sooner.

We also have more payee spouses producing their income information sooner. The law now seems to require that the court to look at the payee spouse when the paying spouse’s initial application is being made. Under the old law, a court would not even look at the supported spouse’s financial circumstances until the supporting spouse proved that he or she had indeed experienced a change in circumstance.

Expert:  Law Tutor, Esq. replied 2 months ago.

Hello. I want to add to the information that the previous expert gave to you. I am an attorney with over 20 years of experience and I look forward to assisting you today. As an aside, I am a licensed New Jersey attorney. STEIDBERGER F. AUSTIN v. ELEANOR L. AUSTIN is an Appellate Division cases, that deals with temporary unemployment and reduction of income of the payor. The Appellate Court said, "... that [the] court must now treat plaintiff's current employment situation and lessened income (and defendant's present health concerns) as significant vectors affecting the ultimate determination of a fair and reasonable alimony award." Although there are not too many published decisions that deal with success on the merits strictly due to unemployment, it does happen. If you have a strong case, the judge will hear you and you may be able to get a reduction. I hope this helps.

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