Does my maintenance obligation last forever? | Obermayer Rebmann Maxwell & Hippel LLP

In the state of New Jersey, a dependent spouse who relies primarily on the other spouse’s income to maintain the marital standard of living is entitled to support as part of an overall resolution of his or her divorce case. While there are several types of alimony in New Jersey, the most common are limited-term alimony or open alimony (formerly called “permanent alimony”), which are available to spouses who have been married for twenty or more years. Although settlement negotiations during divorce proceedings focus on the amount of support one spouse may pay to the other, one may wonder whether there are circumstances after a divorce is finalized that would change or terminate the agreed-upon support obligation.

A maintenance obligation is subject to automatic termination if one of the following three circumstances occurs:

  • remarriage of the dependent spouse;
  • the death of the dependent spouse; or
  • the death of the spouse liable for maintenance.

The temporary maintenance ends automatically at the end of the agreed term. However, a maintenance obligation is also subject to review if a significant change in circumstances occurs for one of the parties. In most cases, the support recipient can request a review and modification of support if their income decreases and their ability to provide support is affected. A spouse is now also entitled to request termination and/or modification of maintenance due to their retirement. If there is an open ongoing maintenance obligation that does not have a defined term, retirement may be one of the main reasons for the maintenance review.

If a spouse is able to prove a significant change in circumstances, the court will consider not only the supporting spouse’s financial circumstances, but also the supporting spouse’s financial circumstances. In any request for alimony review, the supporting spouse must provide a complete and updated case information statement in accordance with the New Jersey Rule of Courts. A supported spouse may also be required to provide an updated Case Information Statement if the supporting spouse has complied with their initial obligation to provide evidence of a material change in their financial circumstances. Only after examining the respective financial circumstances of the parties can a court decide whether termination or change of support is justified.

A supporting spouse who seeks to change or terminate his or her support obligation often must file a motion for a subsequent ruling with the court.

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