Modification vs. Enforcement
Spousal support or alimony orders are not uncommon in divorces. In some cases, former spouses will come to a spousal support agreement on their own. However, more often, the courts will determine alimony for the couple. Regardless, court orders for alimony are binding, and if you have been ordered to pay spousal support, you must comply with the order. Failure to do so or intentionally withholding spousal support is illegal in New Jersey.
When problems arise, there are a couple of options for solving the issue. Depending on the circumstances of your case, you may file a motion with the courts to have the order enforced. Alternatively, you may also petition for a modification to the original order. Which option is best for you will depend on your original circumstances and why your ex is currently violating the order.
Why You Should Work with an Attorney
The courts do not take enforcement or modification requests lightly. Additionally, the process for petitioning for a post-divorce modification or court-order enforcement is complicated. When seeking enforcement or modification, it is important that all steps are followed accurately and that all documents are filled out correctly. Mistakes made in the petitioning process can result in delays or in the courts denying your case. You will also need to build a strong case to support your position.
Do I Need to Work with the Lawyer Who Handled My Divorce?
No! If you are dealing with a spousal support issue, you can work with any qualified lawyer you feel comfortable with. However, when selecting an attorney, it is important that you work with someone who is experienced in both family court modifications and enforcement. A knowledgeable lawyer can examine your case and help you determine which path is best for you.
DeTommaso Law Group has over 125 years of combined experience, and we are ready to help you with your case. Contact us today to discuss your options.
When to Petition for Spousal Support Enforcement
When a former spouse violates an alimony order, it can put you in a financially precarious position. This can be very stressful, especially if it is an ongoing issue. If this is happening to you, you should consider seeking court enforcement of your spousal support order.
To be successful with your case, you will need to compile evidence that your ex is not complying with the court-ordered alimony. When preparing for your case, collect all pertinent financial records and related communication, and be meticulous with your record-keeping. This will be helpful to your lawyer when managing your case.
If successful, the court may take several actions to enforce the spousal support order, including:
- Wage garnishment
- Jail sentencing
The goal of enforcement is to get the violating party to comply with the court order. This process can be time-consuming and expensive. Consequently, it should be viewed as a last resort. You should discuss all your options with your lawyer first. There may be other options that will successfully resolve your issue that do not involve going to court.
When to Seek a Spousal Support Modification
Family law modifications are an alternative to court enforcement. Many people are unaware that they have the right to seek a post-divorce modification in New Jersey. While your original court-order is legally binding, this does not mean that it cannot be changed when necessary.
When determining your alimony order, the courts work to come to a fair solution, which will hold up over time. However, the future is not guaranteed, and as circumstances change, that original spousal support agreement may no longer be appropriate.
To qualify for a modification, you must demonstrate that circumstances have changed:
It is important to remember that the court does not take modifications lightly, and you will need to prove that you have substantial grounds for a modification. Additionally, modifications are not guaranteed. When deciding, the courts will look at all pertinent facts and consider what is in all parties' best interests. Therefore, you must work with a skilled lawyer and put your best foot forward.
Do You Have Grounds for a Modification?
Often, if there are ongoing alimony issues, seeking a modification to the original order is the best way to resolve them. This is especially the case if the person not paying is doing so because of some unexpected hardship, such as unemployment or health issues. If you need a modification, you should work with an attorney familiar with handling spousal support modifications. They will be able to look at your case and determine if you have grounds for a modification.
Common reasons to seek a modification include:
- Change in income
- Job loss
- Health issues
It is also common for child support issues to impact spousal support matters. For example, if you have a new child and your spousal support order affects your ability to provide for that child, you may have grounds for modifying the alimony order. If you are struggling to make alimony payments or have another related issue, speak with a lawyer as soon as possible, and do your best to avoid missing payments.