Although some businesses are beginning to reopen following COVID-19 shutdowns, the pandemic has forced some in New Jersey into early retirement. This could affect alimony obligations. We recommend consulting with a Freehold alimony attorney before filing a request to end or modify your spousal support payments.
Earlier this year, an analysis by Allianz Life revealed more than half of all American workers would likely be pushed out of the job force for reasons beyond their control – a quarter of those being health reasons.
Since March, The New York Times reported jobless claims have reached nearly 40 million. Many will ultimately return to work, but millions of those may have no choice but to retire early (before the age of 65).
Anyone forced into or considering retirement is right to think about how to limit expenses – especially if they are responsible to make alimony payments.
Understand that New Jersey courts will not automatically approve an alimony modification or termination request just because you have retired – even if your circumstances have indisputably changed. The court will weigh whether you have reached the retirement age. If you are retiring early, the court will look at what control you had over that decision, whether it was reasonable and whether it was made in good faith.
Alimony Termination Upon Reaching Age of Retirement
New Jersey’s alimony law, N.J.S.A. 2A:34-23, indicates that alimony may be modified or terminated upon the prospective or actual retirement of the supporting spouse.
There is a rebuttable presumption that alimony will terminate upon the paying spouse reaching full retirement age – except any arrearages that may have accrued. In other words, if the paying spouse is old enough to retire, it is up to the dependent spouse to prove why they should continue to pay.
This rebuttable presumption can be overcome and payments may continue if the court weighs the following factors and finds good cause:
- Ages and health of both former spouses at the time of retirement application.
- Ages of both former spouses at the time they entered their marriage and at the time the alimony award was entered.
- The degree of economic dependency of the recipient upon the paying spouse during the marriage.
- Whether the person receiving alimony gave up other claims, rights or property as a trade-off for higher/longer alimony payments.
- How long/how much alimony has already been paid.
- Whether spouse receiving alimony has reached full retirement age.
- All sources of income (earned and unearned) from both former spouses.
- The ability of the receiver to save enough for their own retirement.
These and any other relevant factors should be considered.
However, if the paying spouse is seeking to retire and end alimony before reaching the full retirement age, then it is his/her burden to prove by a preponderance of the evidence that the retirement is reasonable and made in good faith.
Alimony Termination in Cases of Early Retirement
Courts want to make sure paying spouses aren’t vindictively retiring early just to cut off their former spouses from alimony payments. Factors to be considered in this case include:
- Age and health of both parties.
- The paying spouse’s field of employment and the generally accepted age of retirement (professional athletes will retire much sooner than college professors).
- The age when the payor becomes eligible for retirement (including mandatory retirement dates or the date by which ongoing employment wouldn’t further increase retirement benefits).
- The reasonable expectations of retirement held by both former spouses during the marriage or at the age of retirement.
- The paying spouse’s motives in retiring. (This would include any pressure from employer, incentive plans, etc.)
- The ability of the paying spouse to continue making payments after retirement. This includes consideration of whether he/she will continue working part-time.
- How financially independent the paying spouse is and how retirement will financially impact them.
If you intend to retire but have not yet, the New Jersey family court will establish conditions under which modification/termination can go into effect.
If you are not retiring, but the pandemic has resulted in a substantial loss of income, this too may be considered grounds for modifying and perhaps even terminating alimony payments.
Our alimony lawyers in Freehold can help answer your questions and advise you of your next best step. While social distancing guidelines remain in place, we offer video and telephone conferencing.
Contact us at (732) 810-0034 or email us through our website.