Regardless of the terminology, a final judgment of divorce is subject to modification in the event of certain circumstances in either spouse's life. The majority of modification motions involve alimony and/or child support, which are directly affected by major changes in the lives of either spouse or their children. These circumstances include job loss, retirement, reduction or increase in either party's income, disability, and remarriage/ cohabitation. The last factor is probably the most finite reason for modifying or terminating support, since the addition of another adult in the household typically signifies a second source of income. This is especially true in the case of remarriage, in which couples are likely to commingle funds and accrue shared assets.
It should be noted that a new spouse is not legally obligated to take over a former spouse's support obligations. Child support, for example, generally remains the same after remarriage unless the supported parent's new spouse legally adopts the child. However, if the paying parent goes on to have children with his or her new spouse, child support may be decreased in order to account for the other children. It is possible, though, for the support amount to remain the same, since the other spouse would be contributing to the household expenses, thereby freeing up more of the paying parent's money for child support. The court's determination, by the way, isn't dependent on what the new spouse is currently contributing. What matters is the new spouse's income, and how it affects the amount of the money that the paying parent would normally contribute towards basic expenses such as the rent/ mortgage, utilities, groceries, etc.
This is also a consideration when it comes to alimony, especially for individuals who are paying long-term or permanent alimony. Even if the supported spouse never remarries, paying spouses generally seek to decrease or terminate alimony once they approach retirement. Once again, the new spouse's income may factor into the payor's ability to continue alimony payments while maintaining his or her current expenses. If the new spouse is still working, or has considerable retirement savings or other income sources, the court may rule that there are enough funds overall to cover the alimony payments, as well as all the other expenses. However, this sort of determination would only be made after a thorough examination of each party's assets and liabilities. The court may even consider the paying spouse's ability to continue working if he or she is below the full retirement age of 66 or 67.
The truth of the matter is that alimony and child support are never set in stone. Alimony, in particular, has undergone significant changes since the passing of the New Jersey Alimony Reform Act of 2014. That's why it's important to consult an experienced family law attorney, regardless of where you are in the divorce process. For more information on your domestic support rights and legal options, please speak with the attorneys of Villani & DeLuca, P.C.
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