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NJ Alimony Reform

NJ Alimony Reform

On September 10, 2014, after three (3) years of political and legislative back and forth, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie signed into law an alimony reform a bill that went into immediate effect and alters the state’s existing alimony law, N.J.S.A. 2A:34-23. The new law creates durational limits and enumerates particular factors that concern the modification process and termination of alimony. It is important to note that the new reform law does not apply to alimony awards that have already been established and will only affect alimony awards proactively. Specifically, the law “shall not be construed either to modify the duration or alimony ordered or agreed upon or other specifically bargained for contractual provisions that have been incorporated into: 1) a final judgment of divorce or dissolution; 2) a final order that has concluded post-judgment litigation; or 3) any enforceable written agreement between the parties.” Therefore, the new law will only apply to divorces that are currently in proceedings and all future divorces. The law will also apply to all future applications for the modification of alimony obligations based upon changed circumstances. First, the most significant alteration to the current laws regarding alimony is that the term “permanent alimony” has been replaced by “open durational alimony.” From now on, for any marriage which lasted less than twenty (20) years, the total duration of alimony shall not exceed the length of the marriage, except for situations of “exceptional circumstances.” Some of these circumstances include: the ages of the parties at the time of the marriage and at the time of the alimony award; the degree and duration of dependency of one party on the other party during the marriage; whether a spouse has a chronic illness; whether a spouse has given up a career or a career opportunity or otherwise supported the career of the other spouse; and others. This change to the law garnered additional support following the 2013 decision of Gnall v. Gnall, 432 N.J. Super. 129 (App. Div. 2013), which a marriage of fifteen (15) years was considered a long term marriage warranting permanent alimony. The new law effectively erases the legal import of that decision because it directs that a marriage of less than twenty (20) years is not a “permanent” alimony situation. Next, the court is required to consider how long interim or pendente lite support was paid during the proceedings in determining a final alimony award. This may deter a payee spouse from causing delays in divorce proceedings as a means of continuing to receive interim monthly support because he or she believes it will not have an impact on the final alimony obligation. With respect to retirement age, “full retirement age” is now defined as the age at “which a person is eligible to receive full retirement benefits” from Social Security. The new alimony reform law contains other more complex changes to the ways in which alimony will be awarded in the future. If you anticipate that you will be filing for divorce or may want to petition the court for a post-judgment modification of your 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 HeatherDarlingLawyer.com or click here to e-mail us. This blog is for informational purposes and in no way is intended to replace the advice of an attorney.

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