Carolann M. Aschoff, P.C.

What can justify petitions for spousal support modification?

When spousal support is agreed upon or ordered by a New Jersey court in a divorce, it does not mean that such an order is set in stone. Circumstances change and modifications may be necessary. In anticipation, a spousal support agreement can include a clause for cost of living and inflation escalations at predetermined intervals. Without such clauses, the court can be petitioned to increase the amount received, lower the amount paid or to terminate it altogether.

Temporary hardships may justify petitions for modifications in court; however, sufficient proof of substantial changes in circumstances will be required. Reasons for requesting modifications may include periodic changes in the laws, or significant increases in the incomes of recipients or decreases in the salaries of payers may suffice. If the recipient decides to enter into a romantic cohabitation relationship, the payer may ask for the support amount may be lowered or terminated. Also, increases are sometimes allowed to accommodate the cost of living increases.

Changed circumstances can also mean that the recipient of alimony no longer needs support, or that the need decreases. This could happen when a previously unemployed ex-spouse secures gainful employment or remarries. If the payer remarries and has more children, he or she may be unable to meet both the new and old financial responsibilities. Then there are the unfortunate circumstances of either the payer or the recipient becoming disabled. Such events may justify a claim for increased or decreased court orders -- depending on which party becomes disabled.

This shows that various circumstantial changes may be used to motivate petitions for spousal support modifications. Former spouses who choose to avoid the court and make verbal agreement might find that it would not be enforceable. For this reason, the most appropriate step might be to retain the services of an experienced New Jersey divorce attorney to navigate the necessary legal steps to pursue spousal support modification.

Source:, "4 Reasons to Request a Modification of Alimony", Cathy Meyer, Accessed on Dec. 6, 2017

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