New Jersey Court Denies Husband’s Request to Terminate Alimony Payments

At the conclusion of a divorce trial, one of the decisions the judge must make is whether to award either party alimony. Alimony refers to payments made by one spouse to the other to assist with the payee spouse’s financial support. New Jersey courts can award various types of alimony, including temporary (pendente lite) alimony, limited duration alimony, rehabilitative alimony, reimbursement alimony or open durational alimony. Typically, a court will award alimony for a specific period of time. The alimony award may be modified upon a showing of a substantial change of circumstances. However, New Jersey courts can also award open-duration alimony in marriages of more than 20 years.

When there is a decision as to alimony, whether as a result of trial or settlement negotiations, it remains in force until the Settlement Agreement so states, or the payor spouse petitions the court to either modify or terminate the obligation. In a recent Superior Court of New Jersey family law decision, W.S. v. S.S., A-3780-19, the court was tasked with determining whether Husband should be relieved from his alimony obligation.

The Facts of the Case

Husband and Wife were married in 2002. At the time, both spouses worked. However, when Wife was pregnant with the couple’s second child, she was diagnosed with a noncancerous brain tumor that prevented her from working. She began receiving Social Security Disability benefits.

Shortly afterward, Wife filed for divorce. The couple entered into a Property Settlement Agreement under which Husband would pay $2,000 a month in alimony. The specific arrangement provided that Husband would pay alimony for ten years. If, at the end of that period, Wife was still considered disabled, there would be a presumption that alimony payments would continue.

A few months before the ten-year mark, Husband filed a motion seeking to obtain discovery regarding Wife’s continued disability and whether she was cohabitating with another partner. The Wife provided the information. The trial court determined that Wife was still disabled and not cohabitating. Thus, the court denied Husband’s request to end his alimony. The Husband appealed.

On appeal, the trial court’s decision was affirmed. The Appellate Court noted that according to the evidence Wife presented, she was still receiving Social Security Disability benefits. Under the settlement agreement, it was Husband’s burden to prove that Wife was no longer disabled. Because Husband failed to provide any evidence that Wife was no longer disabled, the appellate court found the lower court’s resolution of the case was proper, and affirmed the denial of Husband’s motion to terminate his alimony.

Are You Involved in a Dispute Over Alimony?

You thought once you made it through the divorce process, you’d be out of the woods. But now you find yourself involved in a dispute over alimony. Scully Family Law can help. Our NJ divorce lawyer has been providing clients with aggressive representation in a wide range of divorce and family law matters since 2007. Whether you seek to modify or terminate alimony payments, or face an ex-spouse’s petition for modification, Scully Family Law is ready to help. To learn more, and to schedule a free consultation, give us a call at 743-462-1122. You can also connect with us through our online contact form.