In a recent New Jersey divorce case (Bonaventuro v. Bonaventuro), the Court refused to lower the ex-Husband’s alimony obligation, even though he had been laid off from his job. The facts are as follows: The ex-Husband was laid off from his position with a consulting company which involved projects for banks and broker dealers. He had earned approximately $150,000 per year.  Pursuant to a prior Court Order, he was paying monthly alimony in the amount of $2,850. The ex-Wife had worked part time as a clerk at a bank; however, her position had also been recently eliminated. 

In September 2010, the ex-Husband filed a motion to suspend his alimony obligation until he obtained full time employment. He also requested that the accrual of arrears be stayed (or stopped) during that time. His only source of income was unemployment compensation of $390 a week. He asserted that he applied for 181 different jobs and established a professional profile on a networking site. 

The Trial Court denied the ex-Husband’s motion, and he appealed. The Appellate Division affirmed the Trial Court’s decision denying the ex-Husband relief. Both courts stated that the person seeking modification has the burden of showing changed circumstances that would warrant relief. In this case, there was a substantial decrease in the ex-Husband’s salary; however, the Court stated that a decrease, standing alone, will not constitute the requisite showing of changed circumstances. 

The Court noted the following:

  1. the ex-Husband did not seek training or employment in related fields
  2. he failed to establish that he had exhausted all of his assets, including his retirement fund
  3. he failed to adequately explain and provide proofs of his severance pay
  4. he failed to adequately account for monies and assets that he received upon the divorce, including the recent sale of his home

Maria Imbalzano is the Co-Chair of Stark & Stark’s Divorce Group in the Lawrenceville, New Jersey office. For questions, please contact Ms. Imbalzano: