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.
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.
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.
Hackensack spouses in the middle of a divorce and others considering divorce could be impacted if the governor signs the measure. Family law attorneys are keeping clients up to date.
Source: The Star-Ledger, “Bill to change NJ’s alimony law heads to Christie,” June 30, 2014.