Category: Protecting

Divorce Settlements are Not Always ‘Forever’

If I lose my job and can no longer afford to pay alimony, am I able to go back to court and try to contest my divorce settlement?
You can absolutely file a motion to try to reopen your divorce case. The recession has played a huge role in Americans losing jobs. Many New Jersey-ians have suffered and consequently filed a motion for a child support and alimony reduction. Post-judgement motions have been pouring in ever since the recession began and has created an enormous problem and issue for the family court system and the people filing. The courts simply do not have enough judges to go around and hear all of the cases and the New Jersey-ians don’t have the financial means or job support to continue to pay their ex-wife/husband.

How do New Jersey courts generally hand motions to reduce alimony and/or child support?
Years ago, it was rare for a judge to consider granting motion(s) to reopen a divorce judgment. These motions were known as change of circumstance(s) applications. Settlements/judgements were considered to be written in stone and unable to ever be changed. Today, as America’s economy spirals downward, the family courts are increasingly inclined to grant more post-judgement motions. Judges now must consider the possibility of a person not being able to find a job or that his or her income has become sharply reduced. Therefore, more judges and family courts are accepting post-judgement motions and re-opening cases to reduce child support and/or alimony.

Do the family court judges have an increased empathy for motions to reduce alimony and/or child support?
Families, of all different incomes, are increasingly chasing for reduced child support and/or alimony. An experienced lawyer will encourage you to try to settle your affairs, as much as possible, without a judge. Court is an expensive route and very time consuming. If you can settle anything outside of court, do so!
To receive a financial reduction, the person seeking relief must file a motion and provide time for their former spouse to respond. The judge can now come to a decision based solely on the legal papers, with or without argument. If there are conflicting facts, the judge may hold a plenary hearing. This legal process can be time and money consuming. More often than not, there are several of these hearings.
In most cases, the success of a post-judgement motion depends on the reliability of the financial information that is disclosed. Furthermore, the family courts will place significant weight on the effort that the applicant has made to find comparable employment or to liquidate assets. There are no statistics on how many post-judgement reductions have been granted. However, there has been more of an increase in granting a reduction than in the past. Many judges sincerely believe that there needs to be a sharing of the pain by both sides.
The process to re-open a divorce case can be time, mind and money consuming for both parties involved. Some of the most difficult cases are from post-judgement cases. Today, many New Jersey-ians paying child support/alimony are trying to re-open their case in hopes to be granted a reduction, even though it has been years since their divorce has been finalized. And still, there is a lot of anger, frustration, and mistrust spewing from the parties!