Generally speaking, unless the parties have otherwise agreed, spousal support obligations are always modifiable based upon a showing of a material change in circumstances. (Lepis v. Lepis). Obviously, the loss of employment by the paying spouse can constitute such a material change in circumstance. The issue of modification of spousal support when an obligor loses employment and obtains lesser employment was specifically addressed in the September 10, 2014 amendment to the alimony statute. N.J.S.A. 2A:34-23(k) in order to create uniformity in how courts deal with this issue.
On September 26, 2016 the New Jersey Supreme Court heard oral argument in the case of Thieme v. Aucoin-Thieme involving a dispute over whether a $2.25M post-divorce bonus was subject to equitable distribution in a short term marriage of fourteen months, due to the fact that the parties had lived together eight years before the marriage and the bonus had been “earned” during that period. Among the issues to be considered by the Supreme Court is whether an asset acquired during the period of cohabitation should be subject to equitable distribution. Although not presently contemplated under the equitable distribution statute, defendant’s counsel has argued that this is an issue of “equity.” Stay tuned for the outcome of this very interesting case, which may potentially change the nature of equitable distribution in cases involving a period of cohabitation prior to the marriage.