At any given day, there are several topics that are on the table for debate. In the area of family law, and especially in New Jersey, the topic of alimony reform has remained front and center for some time now. As with any public issue, there are proponents and opponents in the debate.
For proponents of alimony reform, the focus is on amending permanent alimony laws. A main argument in support of this position is in the name itself. It is permanent. Permanent alimony terms are set at the time of divorce, but what happens after the divorce is finalized? The one thing that most people have in common is that the future is undetermined; anything could happen at any moment.
Proponents argue that permanent alimony doesn’t account for a change in circumstances that could make the payments impossible for the obligor. The inability to change an alimony award could mean further financial problems or even jail time when they can’t keep up with the payments.
While past legislation has stalled, legislation that would create an alimony review commission was recently approved in the Assembly. The group would be comprised of 11 members. The group would be tasked to review New Jersey alimony law.
Within 12 months after being established, the group would then present their findings in a report. This report would include the group’s recommendations for amending the law as it currently stands.
For those that are considering divorce, it is important to remember that there is not a one-size-fits-all alimony order. Alimony is determined based on a number of factors that are considered on a case-by-case basis, which is why one doesn’t need to panic when they listen to the debate. The best way for spouses to protect their interests — no matter how the law changes — is to consult with an attorney that focuses on divorce.
- Under New Jersey’s alimony law change, alimony may not be paid for a term longer than any marriage lasting less than two decades.
- For example, alimony for a 19-year marriage would be paid for a maximum of 19 years, unless “exceptional circumstances” warrant longer payments.
- Alimony ends when the payer reaches 67 years of age.
- The payer can end alimony payments when they reside with a new partner, regardless of whether the relationship ends in marriage.
- Judges can adjust alimony payments if the payer is jobless for at least 90 days.
Heated Discussions on Alimony Reform
Financial support for an ex-spouse has been a sensitive topic among state legislatures nationwide. Many states have reformed alimony laws to address payer complaints that too much spousal support is paid for too long. Reform opponents have feared alimony laws, based on across-the-board support formulas that don’t fit every divorce situation.
New Jersey’s Alimony Reform Proposal
It took two years for New Jersey legislators to hash out an agreeable solution, which some reform proponents claim is a baby step compared to changes that should occur. The reworked alimony proposal received little resistance in the state Assembly and Senate. Unlike other retroactive bills, the New Jersey measure would apply only to alimony decisions made after the bill was signed into law.
The state Senate Judiciary Committee heard testimony before passing the legislation onto the full Senate. Philly.com reported the chair for the family law section of the New Jersey Bar Association told committee members the bill would affect about 2 percent of all state divorce cases. The majority of are resolved through settlements.
New Jersey’s Alimony Reform Proposal Provisions
The president of the Bar Association likened the proposal to a divorce settlement in which neither spouse is entirely satisfied. Under the proposal, alimony may not be paid for a term longer than any marriage lasting less than two decades. In other words, alimony for a 19-year marriage would be paid for a maximum of 19 years, unless “exceptional circumstances” warrant longer payments.
Payers may ask to end alimony payments when an alimony recipient resides with a new partner, whether or not the relationship culminates in marriage. Alimony also would end when a payer reaches 67, the federal retirement age. Judges would have the flexibility to decrease alimony when a payer is jobless for at least 90 days.
Source: The Star-Ledger, “Bill to change NJ’s alimony law heads to Christie,” June 30, 2014.
Source: New Jersey News Room, “Talking Reform: N.J. Alimony Law to be Reviewed by Legislators,” Rich Savner, Feb. 10, 2014
Updated July 2019