Back in the days when dual-income households were few and far between, continued financial support was vital support for non-working spouses at the end of a marriage. One spouse, almost always the wife, often did not have the education or skills to become self-sufficient following a Hackensack divorce. Courts awarded alimony to balance the former spouses’ financial statuses.
Alimony serves the same purpose now as it did then, but financial conditions within marriages have changed considerably. Nearly half of all women in the U.S. are employed but in 1950, only 30 percent of females were working outside the home. According to U.S. Labor Department figures, 59 percent of married couples with minor children lived in two-income households in 2011.
Financial statuses between spouses are more equal now than they ever were in the past. That fact has caused states, including New Jersey lawmakers, to rethink alimony.
Under a bill recently signed by the governor, with almost unanimous approval by the state legislature, permanent alimony will be replaced by open durational alimony. Lifetime spousal support is no longer likely under the legislation.
Alimony limits are set on marriages dissolved in under 20 years — the reform measure is not retroactive. Past agreements for permanent alimony will be honored, although a payer’s obligation could be reduced or terminated due to forced unemployment or retirement, through a spousal support modification. Alimony recipients who cohabit also may lose support.
Advocates of alimony reform say that by limiting alimony, the legislation will encourage former spouses to become independent financially. It is unclear how many ex-spouses currently receive alimony in New Jersey since private agreements aren’t counted. However, in 2013, court-ordered alimony was paid to about 22,000 individuals.
If you have questions about an alimony agreement, seek a modification or currently are going through a divorce, it is advisable to speak with an attorney about the change in the state’s alimony laws.
Source: Bloomberg, “Christie Signs Bill to End Alimony Sooner in New Jersey” Stacie Sherman and Terrence Dopp, Sep. 11, 2014