Anyone going through a divorce simply wants it to be over and done with. Unfortunately, there is one aspect of divorce that can almost always be revisited: alimony. It may not be easy to convince a court to reduce or increase alimony but if the former spouse’s circumstances were to change, those obligations are subject to review and can be modified.
Requesting Alimony After Divorce
The truth is that, in many divorces, the dependent spouse is sufficiently employed and able to maintain a decent standard of living. Yet, as they are prone to do, circumstances change. If a spouse is seriously ill and unable to work, he or she can file an application for alimony even if none was provided for in the judgment. The court will then schedule a special hearing known as a Lepis hearing, named after Lepis v. Lepis, 83 N.J. 139 (1980), a major case that family courts refer to when analyzing alimony applications. In this hearing, several factors will be examined, including both parties' financial situations, their standard of living while married and the current prognosis of the sick spouse.
Modifying Alimony After Divorce
As for the spouse seeking modification of alimony, it all comes down to demonstrating that change of circumstances and how it has impaired his or her ability to earn a reasonable living. These are just some of the circumstances recognized by the Lepis case as grounds to reduce alimony:
- A former spouse is unemployed.
- A former spouse has experienced an increase or decrease in income.
- A former spouse has fallen ill or become disabled.
- The cost of living has increased.
- A former spouse is now cohabitating with a paramour.
No matter the case, circumstances are weighed on both sides. It comes down to one spouse's ability to pay alimony and the other's need to receive alimony. Alimony can be increased or decreased but family court looks at both sides of the equation.
Increasing Alimony After Divorce
Sometimes, a supported spouse will file for an increase in alimony on the grounds that he or she needs additional income in order to maintain a lifestyle similar to that enjoyed during the marriage. If the supporting spouse has received an increase in pay since the divorce, that could be justification for the modification. The burden of proof falls on the spouse requesting the increase. That spouse must demonstrate a change of circumstance while the court will review the standard of living enjoyed by both parties during the marriage.
Decreasing Alimony After Divorce
More often than not, requests for a decrease stem from a decrease in income on the part of the supporting spouse. As the pay or, he or she must file a motion and demonstrate that the decrease was a legitimate one, not reduced for the purpose of avoiding or limiting alimony. Unemployment is also taken into consideration, as is underemployment. Even the payor's unearned income and assets are analyzed in order to determine the validity of a motion for alimony modification.
If you think divorce is devastating, imagine facing years of litigation over alimony. Some spouses face garnished wages and move out of state. Others end up choosing between continuing to receive payments and bearing the cost of legal fees. It is still important that you know your options following divorce. An experienced attorney will not leave you guessing where this is concerned and will remain accessible. If you have questions regarding alimony, please call my office and make an appointment.
Fabrikant Law, LLC prides itself on providing exceptional professional and personalized service. For assistance with your family law matter, please contact us today.