The COVID-10 pandemic has rapidly upended home, work, personal and social lives throughout New Jersey, the United States and the world. Millions of families are wrestling with financial uncertainty and insecurity. This can be even more of a concern for couples who are separated are divorced, particularly if there are contracted or court-ordered legal obligations, such as spousal support.
The novel coronavirus has resulted in workplace shutdowns, layoffs and furloughs. An estimated 6.6 million Americans filed for unemployment during the last week of March. If you’re among these workers but you also owe spousal support, it’s likely you’re unable to meet those same obligations right now – and probably have no easy way to find a new job.
It is important to reach out to an East Brunswick alimony lawyer before you just abruptly stop spousal support payments. We may be able to help you request a temporary modification in support without running afoul of the court’s orders.
Generally speaking, New Jersey family courts are not inclined to find that a temporary change in one’s financial circumstances as a qualification for modification of alimony (or child support for that matter). However, it’s unclear how the courts are going to deal with this situation given the unprecedented, widespread and well-known impact of the pandemic. It is possible that courts may well provide relief to payors, particularly if the spouse receiving payment is still able to work.
Courts do recognize that those in receipt of alimony contributions rely on these funds to meet their basic needs. Family law judges will examine the totality of circumstances before any ruling.
We expect pending alimony modification requests will continue to be processed, albeit electronically, and hearings will be held via telephone or video conference where possible.
It’s much better to make a New Jersey alimony modification request with the help of someone who knows the system and can help you navigate it. You must be able to properly articulate your position, and an alimony lawyer can do this for you. This is especially important at a time when offices such as the Clerk of Courts are operating with barebones staff.
Some forms of recently-announced federal financial relief may allow individuals to keep up with their alimony payments. For example, the CARES Act allows borrowers to defer their mortgage payments for up to one year if they can’t pay. Although borrowers do not need proof upfront, they will be asked to provide some documentation at the end of the deferment.
Individual taxpayer payments of $1,200 each and $500 per child are also expected from the IRS beginning April 9th as part of the federal coronavirus stimulus bill. However, some taxpayers (particularly those who do not have electronic bank deposits set up with the IRS) could wait as long as three months for this relief, according to Business Insider.
If you are concerned you will be unable to keep up with your alimony or child support payments, our family law team can help.
Basis for New Jersey Alimony
Alimony is typically awarded in divorce cases where one spouse is of a lesser financial standing than the other. In some marriages, one spouse is totally financially dependent on the other. The most common example is a spouse whose professional career was foregone in order to raise the couple’s children and manage their household. Even if the dependent spouse does return to work, they may face fewer employment prospects than if they had remained in the workforce during that time.
In the past, it was possible for a former spouse in New Jersey to be awarded permanent alimony, paid for life. This changed in 2014 when permanent alimony was replaced with open durational alimony. It’s available only for couples who are married or in a civil union for 20 years or more. Open durational alimony may continue indefinitely unless there is a reason to terminate, with just cause being cohabitation or remarriage or if the paying spouse becomes unemployed or disabled.
There is also limited duration alimony (for couples married less than 20 years), rehabilitative alimony (paid while the receiving spouse is receiving critical education or workforce training) and reimbursement alimony (to reimburse a spouse who supported the other’s education or professional training).
Alimony is based on factors such as:
- The length of the marriage;
- The health and age of each spouse;
- The earning capacity of each spouse;
- The needs of the dependent spouse and earning ability of the independent spouse;
- Whether the dependent party has been absent from the workforce for an extended time (and the reason for that);
- Each spouse’s responsibility to any children they have;
- The couple’s standard of living during the marriage;
- Income from outside investments;
- Tax implications of spousal payments.
If you are in a situation where you need to request a modification of spousal support payments in New Jersey due to a material change in circumstances, our East Brunswick alimony attorneys can offer you advice on your legal rights and how best to proceed.
Contact us at (732) 810-0034 or email us through our website.