While many people believe that an alimony obligation will automatically terminate once the paying spouse retires, this is not always the case in New Jersey. Retirement can certainly amount to a change of circumstances which would warrant a review of the alimony arrangements in a case. However, the right to review does not mean that the Court will terminate or even modify the obligation. The only way to ensure that alimony will be terminated upon retirement is to include language in a Settlement Agreement that clearly defines retirement as a termination event.
Special attention should be paid in circumstances when the paying spouse seeking to modify the alimony obligation has retired early. A Judge may determine that the paying spouse chose to retire early and therefore the retirement does not constitute "good cause" for terminating alimony. However, even early retirement may be justifiable if the paying spouse can show that the advantages of his/her early retirement substantially outweigh the disadvantages to the supported spouse in reduction of his/her support payments.
Whether or not a paying spouse is retiring early or at normal retirement age, it is advisable to consult an experienced family law attorney prior to filing a motion for modification or termination with the Court. Additionally, it is advisable to discuss the issue of retirement and the impact on alimony prior to finalizing a divorce so as to avoid unnecessary post-judgment litigation. Posted by Robyn E. Ross, Esq.