Late last week, myself and all other New Jersey divorce attorneys got the word; after two and a half years, the New Jersey Alimony Reform movement has succeeded in obtaining a unanimous victory in the New Jersey State Assembly. More work lies ahead before these sweeping changes to New Jersey divorce cases involving spousal support become law. However, alimony laws in New Jersey (as well as across the country) that many call “ancient” are now being updated so that they are fairer and better reflect the reality of today’s world. Let’s explore.
First, last year I shared I explained the origin of this “alimony revolution” in my New Jersey divorce lawyer blog, “What is New Jersey Alimony Reform?” Essentially a group of men and women in New Jersey who felt New Jersey alimony laws are inherently unfair. Moreover, with most families having two working spouses these days, they feel that New Jersey spousal support laws needed to be updated for today’s reality. While the following is not everything that supporters had sought, I believe the obtained a large amount of the changes that they sought.
Second, what are the proposed changes that passed the Assembly?
The legal term “permanent alimony” is no longer allowed in any New Jersey Family Courtroom or law book again. Deemed misleading, it shall now be called “open durational alimony.” What this really means is that there would a be a “rebuttable presumption that alimony would end at federal retirement age, sixty-seven. This is much more kind than the present state of New Jersey alimony law, which does not delineate any specific “cut-off” age whatsoever;
Next involves New Jersey divorces wherein the parties were married 20 years or less. Under this new bill the length of alimony payments cannot be longer than the span of the marriage. I can assure you that after nearly 20 years practicing I have seen countless “permanent alimony” cases wherein the parties were married for less than 20 years. Of note, a New Jersey family judge could still find “exceptional circumstances.” My legal opinion is that this would primarily effect cases with a disabled party;
If the recipient of alimony is living with a new partner (not married), a New Jersey family court may modify or end alimony payments. The bill states that cohabitation is when the two partners are involved in a, “mutually supportive, intimate personal relationship in which the couple has undertaken duties and privileges that are commonly associated with marriage or civil union.” I find this to be much more fair for people who pay alimony, but I’ll share all of my reasons in tomorrow’s blog (that’s a tease lol);
If the payer has been involuntarily unemployed for more than 90 days. It is my legal opinion that the present state of the law would not do so, especially if the payor’s unemployment was due to purely economic issues.
Third, while I feel these are significant changes to the present state of New Jersey alimony law, not everyone is pleased.
Many hoped that the law would be retroactive, especially those presently paying permanent alimony. However, this act would affect future divorces. Other aspects of the original bill proposed by the New Jersey Reform Alimony Act.
As I predicted when the New Jersey Alimony Reform first began, while it has been a long and tough battle, I believe for the first time in my career that true change is on the horizon.
The bill still needs approval of both the state Senate as well as Governor Christie. As my office continues to follow this huge development in New Jersey divorce law, please stay tuned.