Termination or Modification of Alimony in New Jersey

Ways to Change or End an Alimony Order

Divorce from Bed and Board in New JerseyAlimony is still ordered in New Jersey divorce cases, though it’s granted far less often than it used to be. Alimony is often set up as a temporary means of support during a period when the recipient completes the training or education necessary to become self-sufficient. Alimony also can be permanent; however, there are ways to modify or even terminate a permanent order of alimony. Either party can ask the court for a change in alimony, but the request must be in writing, and the other party must have an opportunity to contest the proposed modification.

The Effect of Remarriage on a Spousal Support Order

The parties may agree in a divorce judgment that alimony ends when the receiving party remarries. If the order does not address remarriage, then under New Jersey state law, alimony terminates upon the remarriage of the recipient. The remarriage of the paying party rarely provides grounds for modification or termination of spousal support.

Cohabitation as a Basis for Reducing or Terminating Alimony

The parties to a divorce can stipulate in the divorce decree that alimony ceases if the recipient cohabitates or lives with a new partner. However, even if the divorce order is silent on the issue of cohabitation, a long-term romantic relationship, where the couple shares living space and finances, can be the basis for modification or termination of spousal support. That won’t happen automatically, though. The party seeking to change the alimony order must file a motion, and the court will hold a hearing and make a decision.

Contact an Experienced New Jersey Family Law Attorney

At the law office of David M. Lipshutz, we won’t take your case unless we know we can help. For a private meeting, contact our office online or call us at 856-627-1990. We are available to meet with you Monday through Friday, between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m.

The Divorce Settlement Agreement

What Is It? Do You Need One? What Should It Include?

The Divorce Settlement AgreementOften, divorce proceedings involve no real animosity; the parties recognize that their marriage isn’t working and that they’ve just grown apart. Maybe there are children or even a substantial marital estate involved, but both sides are able to amicably agree on custody and visitation, as well as the equitable distribution of assets and debts. As harmonious as such a divorce may be, a written divorce settlement agreement is still needed.

What Is a Divorce Settlement Agreement?

A divorce settlement agreement is a written document, signed by both parties, which sets forth in detail the terms of the parties’ agreement regarding custody and visitation, child support, alimony or spousal support, and the division of marital debts and assets. Though an oral agreement may technically be enforceable in court, there are proof problems inherent with oral agreements. The written settlement agreement becomes a binding contract, requiring that the parties comply with its terms. If one party fails to perform as specified, legal action can be taken.

There’s no requirement to have a settlement agreement in place before or at the time you separate. In fact, the final agreement typically comes late in the divorce process. The sooner you can come to agreement and put it in writing, the less acrimony and expense you’ll incur.

It’s usually in your best interests to have an attorney either negotiate the terms of the settlement agreement or at least review the provisions. An attorney will have a comprehensive understanding of the law and can ensure that the agreement is in your best interests. It’s also fairly common for the judge in a divorce proceeding to review the settlement agreement to ensure that it’s fair to both parties. If you can’t reach an amicable agreement with your spouse, the judge may decide to issue a ruling governing custody, support, and property distribution.

Once your settlement agreement is signed, it’s a legally enforceable document. You can make modifications to the agreement, but they must be mutual and should be done in writing.

Contact an Experienced New Jersey Family Law Attorney

At the law office of David M. Lipshutz, we won’t take your case unless we know we can help. For a private meeting, contact our office online or call us at 856-627-1990. We are available to meet with you Monday through Friday, between 9:00 A.M. and 5:00 P.M.

Understanding Alimony in New Jersey—An Introduction

Understanding Alimony in New Jersey—An IntroductionA spouse in New Jersey (male or female) still has a right to seek spousal support (alimony) during and after a divorce. In the Garden State, spousal support typically is determined on a case-by-case basis, with the court looking at the following factors:

  • How long the parties have been married
  • The age and physical health of the parties at the time of the divorce
  • The needs of the receiving party and ability of the other party to pay
  • The extent to which each spouse is actively involved with child-rearing
  • The standard of living to which the parties were accustomed during the marriage
  • The respective earning capacities of both parties, as well as educational levels, job training, and skills that may affect earning capacity
  • The length of time the recipient has been out of the job market
  • The length of time it would take the recipient to acquire education or training to become self-supporting
  • How property was allocated in the divorce decree
  • Ownership by either party of income-producing assets
  • Any other factors the court deems relevant

The Different Types of Alimony

There are five different types of spousal support in New Jersey:

  • Alimony pendent lite—This is an award that is only payable while a divorce is in process—essentially a temporary form of spousal support.
  • Limited duration alimony—In many cases, the court will award alimony for a specified time to allow the receiving spouse time to become self-supporting – the term generally cannot exceed the length of the marriage.
  • Rehabilitative alimony—Similar to limited duration alimony, this award typically lasts until the receiving spouse completes job training or other requirements to become self-sufficient.
  • Reimbursement alimony—This award represents reimbursement for sacrifices one spouse made to benefit the other, such as working to support the family while the other spouse obtained an advanced degree.
  • Open duration alimony—This is an award without an identified termination date. It may be for the rest of the person’s life, or it may be ended by the court at its discretion.

Modification of Alimony

Once alimony is awarded, it can be subsequently terminated or reduced if a substantial change in circumstances is proven, e.g., remarriage, cohabitation, loss of job, retirement, severe health problems, or significant change in income of either party.

Contact an Experienced New Jersey Family Law Attorney

At the law office of David M. Lipshutz, we won’t take your case unless we know we can help.For aprivate meeting, contact our office online or call us at 856-627-1990. We are available to meet with you Monday through Friday, between 9 AM and 5 PM.

Stepparent Adoptions in New Jersey—The Basics

Stepparent Adoptions in New JerseyWhen you are divorced with minor children, and you remarry, you may consider having your new spouse legally adopt your children. There can be a number of tangible benefits to doing this:

  • If the other biological parent is abusive, obstinate or unfit to be a parent, you can legally limit his or her access to the child.
  • Your new spouse will have the legal right to participate in decisions regarding the child’s welfare.
  • The children may be entitled to certain work-related benefits.
  • It can help your new spouse build a strong relationship with your children.

In some instances, completing a stepparent adoption is relatively simple, but it also can be fraught with challenges. Here are some of the fundamental things you need to know about the stepparent adoption process in New Jersey:

  • There are age restrictions. A person must be at least 18 years old to be a stepparent. In addition, the stepparent must be at least 10 years older than the adopted child. You can always petition the court to remove those restrictions if doing so is in the best interests of the minor child.
  • You must obtain a termination of the parental rights of the other parent. The easiest way is for the other biological parent to voluntarily relinquish all parental rights. If the other parent is unwilling to do so, however, you must petition the court to terminate their rights. In New Jersey, parental rights can be terminated only if the parent is deemed unfit. Some of the factors that might form the basis for a ruling of unfitness are neglect and abandonment, substance abuse, or evidence of criminal activity. Failure to pay child support is not sufficient grounds for termination of parental rights.
  • If the child to be adopted is over the age of 10, his or her preference may be considered, but the court will have sole discretion to make a decision in the best interests of the child.

Contact Attorney David M. Lipshutz

We will take your case only if we know we can help. For an appointment, contact our office online or call us at 856-627-1990. We are available to meet with you Monday through Friday, between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m.

What You Need to Know about Alimony in New Jersey

Understanding Your Rights and Obligations Regarding Spousal Support

What You Need to Know about Alimony in New JerseyThough it’s nowhere near as common as it used to be, alimony (also known as spousal maintenance or spousal support) is still available in New Jersey. Under current law, it’s based strictly on need and is gender neutral. A divorcing husband has just as much right to alimony as a wife. The courts will work hard to ensure that alimony is not used as a weapon, but strive to use it to strike a balance, allowing both parties to be as close as possible to the lifestyle they had during the marriage. The ultimate goal, in most situations, is to provide the necessary support to allow the recipient to take the necessary steps to become self-sufficient.

It’s important right up front to understand that New Jersey law is less than clear on how to address alimony, giving a fair amount of discretion to judges. It is also important to note that the recent tax law changes eliminate the deduction of spousal support payments and no longer require recipients to claim alimony as taxable income. Further complicating matters, New Jersey tax law allows for the deduction of spousal maintenance on state returns and requires recipients to report payments as income.

Unlike child support, where the court simply takes the income of both parties and plugs it into a formula, there is no similar calculation method for alimony. The court may consider a wide range of factors, including:

  • The length of the marriage
  • The actual need and ability of the parties to pay
  • The standard of living to which the parties were accustomed during marriage
  • The age, physical and emotional health of the parties
  • The potential earning capacities of both parties
  • Any parental responsibilities of either party
  • The extent to which either party gave up a career to care for children or to further the career of the other party

Contact Attorney David M. Lipshutz

We will only take your case if we know we can help. For an appointment, contact our office online or call us at 856-627-1990. We are available to meet with you Monday through Friday, between 9 am and 5 pm.

Enforcing a Divorce Judgment in New Jersey

How to Take Steps to Ensure that Your Ex Complies with the Court Order

Enforcing a Divorce Judgment In the aftermath of a divorce proceeding, when the judge has signed your divorce decree, you hope and expect that both parties will honor the terms of the order, so that you can get on with your lives. Unfortunately, though, the relationship challenges that led to the divorce often don’t end just because the marriage has ended. Your former spouse may choose not to comply with court order, failing to pay child support as required or denying you access to your children at times of scheduled visitation. What can you do if your ex violates the terms of the divorce judgment?

File a Motion for Contempt of Court

Under the law, whenever a party to a court order fails to comply with the terms of that order—and a divorce decree is a court order—that’s “contempt of court,” which can result in some pretty serious actions by the court. As a general rule, though, the court won’t know that a court order has been violated unless someone puts the court on notice. Accordingly, if your ex refuses to honor the provisions of the divorce decree and you have tried, unsuccessfully, to get him or her to comply, you will have to put the court on notice. To do that, you must file a motion, asking the court to find your former spouse in contempt.

It is critical, though, before you file your motion, to attempt to resolve the dispute without the intervention of the court. In fact, New Jersey law mandates that you accompany your motion for contempt with a “certification,” stating that you or your legal counsel made a good faith attempt to work out the disagreement.

Your motion must include a list of the specific provisions of the court order that your ex has failed to honor, a request that your ex comply with the requirements of the divorce decree (a copy of the original divorce judgment should be attached), and a request that your ex pay your attorney fees.

Contact Attorney David M. Lipshutz

We will only take your case if we know we can help. For an appointment, contact our office online or call us at 856-627-1990. We are available to meet with you Monday through Friday, between 9 am and 5 pm.

Paying the Costs of College after Divorce in New Jersey

divorceTraditionally, divorce settlements in New Jersey did not mandate any type of payment by the non-custodial parent for the costs of a child’s college education. Parents could voluntarily contribute or even include some type of payment arrangements in a divorce settlement, but it was totally discretionary. To a significant degree, that has changed.

Under the current approach, courts will look at the financial resources of a non-custodial parent to determine whether contributions to a child’s college tuition and other costs should be mandatory. Though the courts tend to view college education now as a necessity, such a requirement will typically only be included in a divorce decree after an analysis of the following factors:

  • Whether the family values and goals create a reasonable expectation by the non-custodial parent that the child will attend college
  • The amount required by the child to pay for higher education, as compared to the non-custodial parent’s ability to pay
  • The financial resources of the custodial parent
  • The availability of financial aid
  • Any financial resources the child may have
  • The child’s ability to earn income during the academic year
  • The level of commitment of the child to the course of study
  • The intellectual capacity or aptitude of the child
  • Any financial resources the child may have
  • The child’s ability to earn income during the academic year
  • The extent to which the curriculum sought relates to any prior training or long-range goals of the child

To protect yourself, either as a custodial or a non-custodial parent, you want to make certain that your property settlement agreement clearly states the obligations of each parent with respect to payment of the costs of a college education. In addition, you want to know whether your child support obligation terminates on the child’s 18th birthday…it does not do so automatically.

Contact Attorney David M. Lipshutz

We will only take your case if we know we can help. For an appointment, contact our office online or call us at 856-627-1990. We are available to meet with you Monday through Friday, between 9 am and 5 pm.