Alimony Reform Gets Legislature’s Final Approval
- July 10, 2014
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This month, a comprehensive alimony reform proposed law completed its progression through the New Jersey legislature with unanimous support from the State Assembly. The combined bill, A-845/971/1649 received legislative approval from the State Senate following a 30-2 vote in favor. New Jersey lawmakers, the State Bar Association, and other interested Family Law organizations have debated the status of the laws regarding alimony for many years. Most agree that there has been a lack of legal guidance, other than case law, directing judges with regard to alimony issues resulting in a lack of uniformity in the administration and enforcement of alimony awards. As it stands currently, the proposed law would only affect the small number of divorce cases that do not end with a settlement agreement. At present, the vast majority of divorce cases end with a mutually agreed upon settlement between the parties which controls factors such as amount and duration of alimony. The new law would eliminate permanent alimony in most divorce situations and provide judges and lawyers with a set of factors to use as guidelines in the determination of amount and duration of alimony awards. Any modifications to the current status of the laws regarding alimony would be prospective and not apply to any divorce settlements that have been or are currently being executed. If a civil union or legal marriage persists for more than twenty (20) years an alimony award cannot exceed the duration of the relationship. Under the proposed law, in addition to the statutory factors that have already been established Family Court judges would have to consider the ages of the litigants when they married and when their relationship ended, the necessity for separate residences, the ability of each litigant to maintain a standard of living, the dependency of one party on the other party, the parties’ health status, along with other issues. In regard to cases of cohabitation, which has always been a hotly contested legal issue, the proposed law would compel judges to consider, along with other relevant factors, the joint finances of the cohabitating people, the duration of the relationship between the cohabitants, and the division of household chores. In addition, a Family Court judge would not be able to reject a claim of cohabitation on the grounds that the cohabitating couple does not live together on a full-time basis, alone. Further, the law states that alimony award sums may be terminated when the payer spouse attains full retirement age. The law would also bestow greater authority to modify or alter alimony obligations if the payer spouse becomes involuntarily unemployed or sees a large reduction in salary. For instance, if a payer loses his or her job they would be permitted to apply for a modification of their alimony obligation after being unemployed for at least 90 days. If you anticipate that you may want to petition the court for a modification or alteration of your alimony award or have any questions regarding alimony it is critical that you seek out the advice of an experienced attorney before moving forward. For more information about alimony, post-judgment modification, divorce, child support, or other family law matters in New Jersey visit DarlingFirm.com. This blog is for informational purposes and in no way is intended to replace the advice of an attorney.