Alimony Reduction Motions are Decided on a Case-by-Case Basis

1. How are alimony reduction motions usually decided?

It is very important to emphasize that alimony reduction motions are decided on a case by case basis. This legal concept often makes many litigants very upset and some even enraged. Your case could be exactly like your neighbor’s case who had his alimony terminated. However, you could lose your case even though you had the same disability or if you lost your job just like your neighbor did. There are many variables in the family court system, many that I can’t write about. A very illustrative case is Kuron v. Hamilton, 331 N.J. Super. 561 (App. Div. 2000). Here, the Appellate Division held that it would not adopt any bright-line rules, but that it consider any alimony modification applications on a case-by-case basis. At issue in the Kuron case was the question whether an attorney’s incarceration and disbarment was a sufficient change of circumstances to justify a reduction of alimony. Alternatively, the court could rule that the attorney’s incarceration and disbarment was only voluntary conduct for change of circumstances purposes.

The Kuron court ultimately held that a bright line test to analyze any alimony reduction motion. The court further held that it must analyze the totality of the circumstances when it rules on any alimony reduction motion. Thus, the Kuron court refused to use any type of absolutes when it ruled on the Lepis motion. In summary the Kuron court held that a “per se test is inconsistent with this State’s established standards for evaluating petitions for modifcation.” See, Kuron v. Hamilton, 331 N.J. Super. 561, 570 (App. Div. 2000); (Further holding that rejecting a rule that voluntary conduct necessarily precludes a modification of support on the basis of changed circumstances).

2. Could you please cite some cases that support the doctrine that alimony reduction cases are decided on a case-by-case basis? 

A. Deegan v. Deegan, 254 N.J. Super. 350 (App. Div 1992). Here, the court held that in determining whether husband’s voluntary early retirement constituted a change in circumstances thus warranting a reduction of his alimony payments, the trial court was required to conduct a full review of the financial circumstances of both parties.

B. Larbig v. Larbig, 384 NJ Super. 21 (App. Div. 2006). Here, the court held that whether an alimony payment should be reduced upon the grounds of a change of circumstances rests within a Family Part judge’s sound discretion. The Larbig court further held that each and every motion to modify an alimony obligation ‘rests upon its own particular footing and the appellate court must give due recognition to the wide discretion which our law rightly affords to the trial judges who deal with these matters.’ Id. at 21

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