What is Spousal Support?
When spouses decide to separate or seek a divorce, it is common that the court will order one spouse to make support payments to the other to maintain some semblance of financial equality between the spouses as their relationship ends. Spouses may reach an agreement on support in a marital settlement agreement, or the court may order support as part of the divorce decree. However, months or years into a support order, the circumstances of the spouses may change such that reduction of the amount of support is warranted.
Trigger of Condition in Support Order
A divorce settlement agreement or divorce decree that provides for spousal support (also known as alimony) may set forth conditions under which a spouse may seek a reduction of the support amount. For example, when the support order sets forth the spouses’ respective financial positions and states that the amount of support is based on those factors, the order may also state that a spouse can seek modification of the support order if those factors materially change, such as if the spouse who is responsible for paying support suffers a reduction in income of a certain amount or loses his or her job.
Material Change in Circumstances
Even if a support order does not expressly set forth conditions under which a party can seek a modification of the order, state law often permits a spouse to seek a modification of an order whenever there has been a material change in the spouses’ circumstances from the time that the support order was originally made. Some of the most common material changes in circumstances that lead to a reduction in spousal support include:
Reduction in Payor Spouse’s Income
When the paying spouse suffers a reduction in his or her income, such as when he or she loses a job or suffers an illness or another health issue that leaves him or her unable to work, the court may order a reduction in the support amount or temporary or permanent cessation of the support obligation. However, the court may decline to modify the support obligation if the court finds that the paying spouse intentionally left his or her job so as to not be able to afford his or her support obligation. Each state has its own threshold for change in income that qualifies as a material change; however, as a general rule of thumb, a change of at least ten percent is usually enough to qualify as a material change.
Recipient Spouse’s Cohabitation
If the spouse that receives spousal support gets remarried or begins cohabitating with a romantic partner, the court may agree to reduce or terminate the support obligation since he or she no longer requires financial support from his or her ex-spouse when sharing household expenses with a new spouse or partner.
Petitioning the Court for Reduction of Spousal Support
If a spouse believes that factors require a reduction of spousal support, it is necessary to petition the court for a reduction of the support obligation. The petition must reference the previous order and set forth facts and other evidence that demonstrates why a change in the support obligation is necessary. Seeking modification of a spousal support obligation is a complex endeavor and often requires the assistance of an experienced attorney.
Contact a Moorestown Family Law Attorney for a Consultation About Spousal Support in New Jersey Today
If you are thinking about filing for divorce, or if you have already started the divorce process and are dealing with another matter such as child custody, child support, or division of assets, you need to speak with a qualified attorney. The New Jersey family law attorneys at Cordry Hartman LLC represent clients throughout the state, including Cherry Hill, Evesham Township, Mount Laurel, and Medford. We understand how challenging this time can be for you, which is why we will fight hard to protect your interests, and the interests of your loved ones, throughout the legal process. Call us at (856) 235-4511 or fill out our confidential contact form to schedule a consultation. We have an office conveniently located at 505 S. Lenola Rd., Ste. 224, Moorestown, NJ 08057.
The articles on this blog are for informative purposes only and are no substitute for legal advice or an attorney-client relationship. If you are seeking legal advice, please contact our law firm directly.