As society’s views change, so do laws that govern it. The New Jersey State Bar Association, among other proponents, was behind an update of rules affecting alimony, which were signed into law in September 2014. The revisions are not retroactive, but they do affect spousal support disputes now underway and in the future.
The words “permanent alimony” have been removed from the new law, with open durational alimony taking their place. That may give the impression long-term support is a thing of the past, but that’s not necessarily true, since alimony awards are based on individual circumstances.
However, lawmakers have limited alimony duration for marriages lasting under 20 years. With exceptions, spousal support for “shorter” marriages may not be paid for a period longer than the couple was married. Cohabitation by a recipient ex-spouse is now a valid reason for suspension or termination of alimony payments.
The new rules permit ex-spouses to seek modifications to spousal support agreements, as soon as 90 days after an award is made. The change in alimony payments must be based on an income or job loss. A “rebuttable assumption” included in the law allows alimony payments to end when the paying spouse reaches retirement age, although the end date can be disputed by the recipient.
The rules are not hard and fast. New Jersey judges are permitted to use their discretion when determining a fair award of spousal support. Multiple factors influence the decision including the length of time spouses were married, the marital standard of living and the current and possible future earnings of the individual spouses. Courts also consider age, health and whether a spouse requires education or job training to become financially independent after divorce.
New Jersey alimony laws provide guidelines, but each award is determined on its own merits. A legal adviser can explain how or whether the law affects alimony payers and recipients.