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Family Law.

In Landau v. Landau, the Appellate Division recently upheld the requirement that a prima facie showing of changed circumstances must be made “before a court will order discovery of an ex-spouse’s financial status” even after the 2014 amendments to the alimony statute, N.J.S.A. 2A: 34-23(n), defining cohabitation. The requirement to establish changed circumstances to obtain a modification of divorce obligations was established in 1980 in Lepis v. Lepis and it is still good law.

Lepis held that courts have equitable powers to modify alimony and support orders pursuant to N.J.S.A. 2A: 34-23. Therefore alimony and support orders deal only with the present obligations of the former spouses and are always subject to review and modification if there is a prima facie showing of changed circumstances. Changed circumstances are those that “impair the dependent spouse’s ability to maintain the standard of living reflected in the original decree or agreement” or conversely those that “render all or a portion of support received unnecessary for maintaining that standard.” There must be a prima facie showing of changed circumstances, Lepis held, before a court will order discovery of an ex-spouse’s financial status. In Lepis, where the wife sought an upward modification of alimony and child support four years after the judgment of divorce, incorporating a comprehensive agreement. The court ordered discovery of the husband’s tax returns. The wife had sustained her burden of making a prima facie showing of changed circumstances by alleging with specificity the increases in her own and her children’s needs. Despite having a cloak of confidentiality, the former husband’s tax returns were ordered produced.

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