Today we shall discuss one of the most significant and major changes to New Jersey divorce law in my 20 years of practice as a divorce lawyer in our state. The modified alimony laws shall significantly alter the lives of countless folks who may face a divorce now and in the future. Today, let’s take a look at some of the most important changes to New Jersey alimony laws.
First is the elimination of permanent alimony. In my 20 years as a divorce lawyer, no other change in New Jersey family law has been of such significance as the term permanent alimony being officially stricken from the books as they say and has been replaced by a new legal term, open durational alimony. Under the new law, there is something called the rebuttable presumption which clearly states that at age 67 an individual has a great chance of having their alimony completely terminated or at a minimum modified and lowered.
Many factors are considered when negotiating (or trying a case) involving alimony. These include, but are not limited to:
• The needs of the potential recipient of alimony;
• How long was the marriage (or civil union);
• Age and health of both spouses;
• The “standard of living during the marriage,” which is equally applied to both spouses;
• Each spouses “earning capacity” including levels of education and the likelihood of obtaining employment at an anticipated earning level;
• The ability of each spouse to generate “unearned” income from investments;
• Any other elements that a New Jersey Family Court may find pertinent.
Now another significant change to New Jersey alimony laws is that any marriage or civil union that lasted 20 years or less, the term of alimony can never be longer than the length of the marriage or the civil union.
I should note that the new law does allow for, quote unquote, exceptional circumstances. A good example would be if one of the two spouses has been deemed permanently disabled by the federal government.
Another major amendment to our state’s alimony laws concerns cohabitation of the recipient of alimony after the divorce has been finalized. When an individual is paying alimony…then discovers that their ex-spouse is involved in a serious intimate relationship, my phone rings immediately.
Under the new law, a judge of a New Jersey family court must consider eight factors in order to determine whether or not Cohabitation exists. These include:
• The commingling of finances, such as joint bank accounts or credit cards, the sharing of living expenses, such as a mortgage or rent payments,
• That the couple’s relationship is well-known in their social and family circles, an example would be spending all or most holidays together;
• A number of other facts, such as how long has the relationship been going on, must be proven to the court that would demonstrate a mutually supportive, intimate personal
relationship and therefore cohabitation under the law.
However, one of the biggest changes to New Jersey alimony law is that Cohabitation can still be found even if the couple does not live together on a full time basis. This is such a momentous change in the law. It eliminates the games that I have watched people play for years now.
An example I have seen is when the new boyfriend or girlfriend leases an apartment that they only live in a few days per week or even per month, so they may continue to receive the alimony payments even if the payer of the alimony takes them back to court. The new law has eliminated this fraud because again, Cohabitation can be proven in a court of law even if the couple is not living full time together on one residence.
It is important to note that the “new” alimony law is not retroactive, but did become effective the day Governor Christie signed that bill, September 10, 2014.
These complex changes to the most controversial area of New Jersey matrimonial law are far too detailed to be covered in today’s blog but I certainly invite your phone calls, emails, or please follow my website and blogs which go in to greater detail about these changes. Thank you for your time.