Lost your job to COVID 19? You might have relief from Alimony.
Submitted by New Jersey Family Law Firm, Hark and Hark.
COVID 19 has caused governments nationwide to shut down various sectors of the economy. In addition, the shutdowns, sickness, death and fear from coronavirus has caused even more businesses to shutdown or reduce their workforce. Many people, especially in New Jersey, have lost their jobs and have yet to return. These unemployed people still have financial obligations such as rent, utilities, loans, credit card debt, and alimony obligations.
In order to obtain a modification or termination of alimony, the person seeking the change must show a non-temporary significant change in circumstances. Lepis v. Lepis, 83 N.J. 139 (1980). The change in circumstances must have substantially affected the ability to support oneself. Merely temporary circumstances, such as being losing a job, are normally insufficient grounds to modify alimony without more.
The New Jersey alimony statute, N.J.S.A. 2A:34-23 provides, for non self-employed people, a 90 day waiting period from the loss of employment before they can seek an alimony modification. While this is a daunting period of time for someone who has lost their job, the courts have discretion to apply the modification, if granted, retroactively to the date of the loss of employment.
Once the party seeking a modification reaches the 90 day time period, the court then considers whether the party has demonstrated a change in circumstances by analyzing:
- The reasons for any loss of income;
- Under circumstances where there has been a loss of employment, the obligor’s documented efforts to obtain replacement employment or to pursue an alternative occupation;
- Under circumstances where there has been a loss of employment, whether the obligor is making a good faith effort to find remunerative employment at any level and in any field;
- The income of the obligee; the obligee’s circumstances; and the obligee’s reasonable efforts to obtain employment in view of those circumstances and existing opportunities;
- The impact of the parties’ health on their ability to obtain employment;
- Any severance compensation or award made in connection with any loss of employment;
- Any changes in the respective financial circumstances of the parties that have occurred since the date of the order from which modification is sought;
- The reasons for any change in either party’s financial circumstances since the date of the order from which modification is sought, including, but not limited to, assessment of the extent to which either party’s financial circumstances at the time of the application are attributable to enhanced earnings or financial benefits received from any source since the date of the order;
- Whether a temporary remedy should be fashioned to provide adjustment of the support award from which modification is sought, and the terms of any such adjustment, pending continuing employment investigations by the unemployed spouse or partner; and
- Any other factor the court deems relevant to fairly and equitably decide the application.
For self-employed people seeking a modification of alimony, the court analyzes the economic and non-economic benefits of the party from the business now to those at the time of entry of the order establishing alimony.
While it is no guarantee that the court will approve an alimony reduction in every case after 90 days of unemployment as a result of COVID-19, every day that exceeds the 90 day time period for someone who is unemployed with an alimony obligation makes it for a greater of a chance for a modification, or at the very least, temporary relief from the obligation until adequate employment can be obtained. Further, the person seeking alimony must be actively seeking employment during this time period to argue for a modification of alimony based on changed circumstances.
At Hark & Hark, we help parents with divorce, custody, domestic violence, child support, alimony issues and more.
In recognition of these trying financial times due to COVID-19, we are reducing fees and working with clients to come up with manageable payment plans. While we combat Coronavirus, we are offering special deals for first responders and individuals currently working in the medical field. Initial consultation is always free and we are available remotely.
We represent clients in all towns in New Jersey, including Bloomingdale, Clifton, Haledon, Hawthorne, Little Falls, North Haledon, Passaic, Paterson, Pompton Lakes, Prospect Park, Ringwood, Singac, Totowa, Wanaque, Wayne, West Milford, and Woodland Park.