A new ruling interpreted the recent statute that allows a reduction in alimony. In Mills v. Mills, N.J. Super. Ch. Div-Ocean Cty., (L.R. Jones, J.S.C.) (29 pp.), the court ruled that, under the 2014 amendments of the alimony Statute (N.J.S.A. 2A: 34-23(k), a person obligated to pay alimony may have their payments reduced, when they lose their employment and are unable to secure employment that pays the same amount. The court held:
(1) Under the recent 2014 amendments to New Jersey's alimony statute, and newly enacted subsection N.J.S.A. 2A:34-23(k), a court may reduce an alimony obligation when the obligor loses his or her prior W-2 employment, and thereafter makes reasonable attempts to find substitute employment;
(2) In interpreting and applying the new statutory language to a case when an obligor loses his job and obtains replacement employment at a substantially lower salary, a fundamental approach to addressing such a situation inherently involves two questions of equity: (A) Was the supporting spouse's choice in accepting particular replacement employment objectively reasonable under the totality of the circumstances? (B) If so, what if any resulting adjustment in support is fair and reasonable to both parties under the facts of the case? (3) The terms and spirit of part of the 2014 amended alimony statute, N.J.S.A. 2A:34-23(k) are relevant and applicable in this case, where the parties were divorced prior to September 10, 2014, but where (a) the parties' agreement contained no contractual provision defining or 2 limiting the standards for reviewing a modification of support based upon loss of employment and decrease in financial circumstances, and (b) the issue has not already been litigated and adjudicated by the court in prior post-judgment proceedings.
This judge also ruled that the statute could be applied retroactively, where were no indications that the Legislature intended the amendments to the statute, N.J.S.A. 2A:34-23(k), to be applied only prospectively when they became effective on Sept. 10, 2014.
It should be noted that this decision was from a trial level court and not the Appellate Division or Supreme Court, so it carries minimal weight as far a precedent, but it does appear to be consistent with the intent of the statute..