On September 10, 2014, Governor Chris Christie signed into law an alimony reform bill, which went into effect immediately. New Jersey has joined a small but growing number of states that have updated alimony laws in order to reflect modern trends of gender participation in the workforce. The alimony reform bill does not apply retroactively. With regard to alimony awards, the new law will apply only to divorces in process and to future divorces. The law will, however, apply to applications to modify alimony based upon changes of circumstances and retirement.
The most significant change to existing alimony law is replacement of the term “permanent alimony” with the term “open durational alimony”. By way of explanation, for marriages that lasted fewer than 20 years, the length of alimony payments cannot exceed the length of the marriage unless a judge decides there are “exceptional circumstances.” The new bill includes a non-exhaustive list of “exceptional circumstances”, which include, but are not limited to, the following:
- The ages of the parties at the time of the marriage or civil union and at the time of the alimony award;
- The degree and duration of the dependency of one party on the other party during the marriage or civil union;
- Whether a spouse or partner has a chronic illness or unusual health circumstance;
- Whether a spouse or partner has given up a career or a career opportunity or otherwise supported the career of the other spouse or partner;
- Whether a spouse or partner has received a disproportionate share of the marital estate;
- The impact of the marriage or civil union on either party’s ability to become self-supporting, including but not limited to either party’s responsibility as primary caretaker of a child;
- Tax considerations of either party; and
- Any other factors or circumstances that the court deems equitable, relevant and material.
A summary of other major changes set forth in the new alimony law is set forth below:
- The new law allows petitioners to end alimony payments if the recipient lives with a partner, even if they don’t get married;
- The new law allows petitioners to modify an alimony award after 90 days based on a loss of employment or income
- The new law addresses retirement issues, creating a rebuttable presumption for alimony to terminate at a certain point while also establishing a number of factors for judges to consider in evaluating modification or termination requests related to retirement.
- The new law retains judicial discretion in most instances, while providing specific guidance only for alimony awards in marriages of less than 20 years and requires judges who deviate from that guidance to provide a written explanation.
Original Post: http://callagylaw.com/new-jersey-alimony-reform/