Edward R. Weinstein, Esq.

Articles Posted in Alimony

In 2014 New Jersey’s alimony laws were amended following a joint effort between divorce lawyers and the legislature to “modernize” our states’ alimony statute. One of many changes involves how New Jersey courts would interpret cases wherein the payor of alimony attempts to eliminate (or lower) their alimony payments due to losing a prior job wherein they were employed for a lengthy period of time and has now gained new employment. However, the new job provides a “significant” reduction in income that, in turn, compromises their ability to pay alimony at the same level as previously agreed upon in the Property Settlement Agreement prepared by one of the attorneys in the case or ordered by a judge of the Superior Court of New Jersey following a trial.

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In a recent case the payor of alimony was successful in obtaining a decrease in their alimony payments. First, the amount of alimony payments was lessened in amount when the payor lost their job (which must be W-2 job as per the amended alimony statute) and has successfully proven to the court that they made a realistic effort to obtain a similar job with comparable employment.

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Throughout my career as a divorce and family law attorney, I have seen many folks who feel that they can, “play the system.” Many times, this involves the high conflict issue of alimony. Let’s call it the way it is; no one wants to pay alimony to their “ex.” While the lawyers at our law firm sympathize, we always give our client’s an honest assessment of their case throughout the divorce process, including the “hot button” issue of alimony. However there are times that, notwithstanding our advice to the contrary some folks proceed, pro se, thinking that they can “play the system” and avoid their alimony obligation. Some folks quit their jobs thinking that this will allow them to circumvent alimony payments. Others hurry right back to court immediately after the divorce thinking that they can convince a judge that alimony is unfair. All told, a judge of the Superior Court of New Jersey can see right through these vain and fruitless attempts to avoid paying alimony. Sometimes, these folks make the situation only worse for themselves when they have to pay their “ex’s” attorney’s fees if the court finds that they are acting in bad faith.

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This is an excellent example of why you should consult with a law firm who only handles divorce and family law. The lawyers at our law firm stand prepared to assist you or a loved one if they would like an honest assessment regarding potential or ongoing alimony payments. Following, please find a recently decided case the illuminates the foregoing.

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In September 2014, New Jersey’s alimony laws became “modernized” in many respects. Consequently, lawyers who only handle divorce and family law cases have been monitoring how the courts interpret many aspects of the New Jersey’s modified alimony laws. To wit, in the past, an attorney would have to advise their client that it may be best to wait until they actually retire before filing a application to terminate or lessen the amount of alimony. Sadly, this would often become a “no-win” situation, as the retired person had to keep paying the alimony until a New Jersey family court judge would relieve them of this obligation. However, Judge Jones recently decided that the “new” alimony law allows for a court to order termination (or modification) based upon probable retirement instead of waiting until the individual has already retired. Following please find a detailed analysis of how the issue of retirement and alimony have become much more fair.

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In Mueller v. Mueller, the Honorable Judge Jones of the Superior Court of New Jersey, Family Part of Ocean County explored what exactly “prospective” means in New Jersey’s recently amended alimony statute, N.J.S.A. 2A-34-23(j)(1-3), in terms of terminating or modifying an alimony obligation on the basis of retirement. Judge Jones held that N.J.S.A. 2A-34-23(j)(1-3), the amended alimony statute, does not state a specific maximum or minimum period of time for getting a ruling in advance on a prospective future retirement. That said, the intent of the statutory amendment is for the prospective retirement to happen reasonably close to the when the motion is filed, not several years later.

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Alimony has always been one the most controversial aspects of any divorce case. This reality caused changes to New Jersey’s alimony laws in 2014. Amongst the changes that both divorce lawyers and judges alike have been following concerns how New Jersey’s alimony laws effect retirement. The following recently released case from the New Jersey Appellate Division addresses issues. Simply put, the person receiving alimony must show in court must “rebut the presumption” as to why alimony should not be terminated upon that payor’s reaching full retirement age under the Federal Social Security Act. This was a massive change in New Jersey’s old alimony laws.

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In Landers v. Landers, the New Jersey Appellate Division explained the proper application of the new amendments to the alimony statute, New Jersey Statute 2A:34-23(j). They focused their review on the modification of alimony when the supporting spouse retires.

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For those of you who follow my law firm’s New Jersey Divorce Lawyer Blog, our state’s alimony laws have been “modernized” to reflect the many cultural and economic changes that have occurred over the past few decades. In this attorney’s opinion, one of the most essential aspects of New Jersey’s amended alimony statute concerned the termination of permanent alimony (please enjoy my law firm’s video regarding this issue). In other words, New Jersey law now acknowledges an individual’s right to retire at a reasonable age. This takes into account not only a person’s biological age, but other factors such as their health, their inability to gain employment at an advanced age and their ability to keep paying while being able to support themselves as well. In the recent case of Court v. Court, the New Jersey Appellate Division established how to properly balance the new statutory factors in an equitable and just manner.

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In Court v. Court, husband Howard J. Court appealed from a Family Part order that denied his motion to terminate his alimony obligation, and vacate his alimony arrears. Howard and Eileen Walls Court were married in 1981. Their divorce was finalized in 2003. The judgment of divorce required Howard to pay Eileen $ 1000 per week in alimony. This figure was based upon the fact that he earned $160,000 in 2002. Furthermore, Eileen had an imputed income of only $27,500.

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Upon termination of a marriage by divorce, New Jersey Family Courts are often faced with the difficult task of determination of the appropriate division of the couple’s assets, ranging anywhere from liquid assets to real and personal property. Today’s blog will address the treatment of personal injury awards and settlements for lawsuits or claims commenced during the marriage. Following please find a detailed legal analysis prepared by Molly Turpin, Esq., an associate attorney and another rising star at the Law Offices of Edward R. Weinstein.

Specifically this blog shall discuss how divorce and family law attorneys treat the equitable distribution of the money upon a couple’s divorce. Personal injury awards and settlements often include damages for pain and suffering, lost wages, loss of future earning capacity loss of consortium (i.e., the loss of the benefits of a family relationship due to the injuries), medical expenses and damages to property.

Although there are considerable differences in the way states treat property acquired by spouses while married, New Jersey lawyers follow what is known as the “Analytical Approach.”

MOLLY

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This is difficult a question that, as a New Jersey Divorce attorney, I have to answer on nearly a daily basis and I have been doing so for a number of years. New client’s often walk in my office completely heartbroken. Sometimes they are in a state of shock or a deep depression. Other times they can hardly control their rage after the betrayal of being cheated on. Then, if during our divorce consultation I determine that this client has alimony exposure, I take a deep breath, tell them harsh reality of alimony, and then explain why.

The lead case is Mani vs. Mani 183 N.J. 70 (2005), which clearly states that marital fault plays no role UNLESS “egregious” conduct can be proven on the part of the other spouse. At this juncture of our meeting, my client will ask, “but they cheated on me, what could be more egregious than that?” I then have to exclaim that while I truly empathize with being betrayed (it is the reason that I divorced my wife three years ago), infidelity under the Mani case does not amount to the type of egregious behavior that Mani was meant as an exception to the strict general law that marital fault is not a factor when determining NJ alimony in a divorce case.

In fact, the Mani case specifically discounts adultery as an “egregious act,” no matter how often, how long, with how many or even where (such as a public place!). Now, after the burden of proving that any in any given NJ Divorce case that a claim for alimony has been met, the Mani case did provide us with two examples in order to demonstrate what the Supreme Court of New Jersey meant by “egregiousness” conduct. The first example is if one spouse unsuccessfully attempted to murder the supporting spouse. The second example would be if one spouse deliberately infected the supporting spouse with a loathsome disease. Clearly, these two examples are extreme and it is the opinion of this New Jersey Divorce Lawyer that the Supreme Court of New Jersey intentionally used these two wild examples in order to make it very clear that “fault” will rarely be considered when making alimony determinations in cases involving adultery.
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Thumbnail image for photo_5894_20080509.jpgAs a New Jersey Divorce and Family lawyer, I have represented numerous clients on each side of the following scenario: “A divorced woman has started living with her boyfriend.” Clients often start off a initial consultation with one of two questions:

How do I prove my ex-spouse is cohabitating so I can stop paying alimony?
If I cohabitate could I lose my alimony?

In the past few weeks several news articles have been published regarding a cohabitation case recently decided by the New Jersey State Appellate Court.

In this case, the plaintiff, Eric Gould, argued that the alimony payments he was making to his ex-wife should be modified or terminated because she was cohabitating with her boyfriend. To his point, the divorce agreement did include a line “”In the event of Wife’s cohabitation, the Husband may, at his option, make all appropriate applications to the Court to have alimony terminated in accordance with the then existing law of this State.”

However he had to prove that she was actually cohabitating. To do so, he hired a private investigator, peeked in his ex-wife’s mail box, and presented the findings to the court. He alleged that the boyfriend kept a substantial amount of clothing at her house, vacationed with her and the children, helped with homework and even took on the responsibility for certain chores. He claimed the boyfriend had received mail to the house, and on six observed nights, the boyfriend was at the woman’s home for a portion of each one and stayed for three full nights.

While the ex-wife acknowledged the romantic relationship, she refuted the claim that they were cohabitating claiming the clothing was minimal, and while yes, he did help with homework and chores, he has his own established residence, does not contribute to the her household financially, and they do not have a marital type relationship.

So what happened?
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