Alimony & Spousal Support

Recent New Jersey Alimony Statute Allows A Reduction In Alimony Obligation Upon A Loss Of Employment And Subsequent Obtaining New Job At Significantly Reduced Salary

The Mills vs. Mills’ family law, alimony case  presents legal issues involving an alimony obligator’s loss of employment, and interpretation of recent  2014 amendments to New Jersey’s alimony statute, N.J.S.A. 2A:34-23(k). Specifically defendant seeks a reduction of his alimony obligation to plaintiff, based upon losing his prior long-term employment, and subsequent obtaining of a new job at a significantly reduced salary. In turn, plaintiff opposes a reduction in alimony.  For the reasons set forth in this opinion, the court grants the defendant’s application for a reduction in his alimony obligation, and holds the following: (1) Under the recent 2014 amendments to New Jersey’s alimony statute, and newly enacted subsection N.J.S.A. 2A:34-23(k), a court may reduce an alimony obligation when the obligator loses his or her prior W-2 employment, and thereafter  makes reasonable attempts to find substitute employment; (2) In interpreting and applying the new statutory language  to a case when an obligator loses his job and obtains replacement employment at a substantially lower salary, a fundamental approach to addressing such a situation inherently involves two questions of equity: (A) Was the supporting spouse’s choice in accepting particular replacement employment objectively reasonable  under the totality of the circumstances? (B) If so, what if any resulting adjustment in support is fair and reasonable to both parties under the facts case? (3) The terms and spirits of the part of the 2014 amended alimony statute, N.J.S.A 2A:34-23(k) are relevant and applicable in this case, where the parties were divorced prior to September 10, 2014, but where (a) the parties agreement contained no contractual provision defining or limiting the standards for reviewing a modification of support based upon a loss of employment and a decrease on financial circumstances, and  (b) the issue has not already been litigated and adjusted by the court in prior post-judgment proceedings.

Reference: Mills vs. Mills, 20-3-1528, N.J. Super.Ch, Div- Ocean City, Case & Analysis, New Jersey Law Journal, 222 N.J.L.J. (October 17, 2016)

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