On Monday, June 30, 2014, the NJ Senate Judiciary Committee passed legislation that would drastically change alimony awards in future divorce cases and is currently awaiting a signature by Governor Christie. The bill, A-845/971/1649,which was approved by the Assembly last Thursday, is prospective and would not disturb any previous alimony awards in already settled divorce actions. Supporters of the bill claimed that NJ alimony laws are “ancient” and that this bill is a welcomed change. People who pay alimony declare the payments to be a heavy financial burden, especially in cases where permanent alimony is awarded. The changes in the bill reflect such concerns and offer predictability to both parties on what their financial circumstances will look like after divorce.
Major changes in the bill include:
- Permanent alimony has been eliminated in most cases.
- Judges are required to issue a ruling explaining their analyses in determining whether there should be an award of alimony and the factors that they considered to reach their conclusion.
- If a marriage or civil union lasted less than 20 years, an alimony award cannot exceed the length of the relationship unless the judge decides there are “exceptional circumstances.”
- There are additional factors to consider when awarding alimony such as the ages of the parties when they were married and when the relationship ended; the need for separate homes; the ability of both parties to maintain a standard of living; the dependency of one party on the other; and whether one party has a particular health issue.
- In cohabitation situations, judges can suspend or terminate limited-duration alimony. If cohabitation ends, judges can resume alimony but it cannot be extended beyond the original termination date. Also, judges cannot reject a cohabitation claim on grounds that the couple does not live together on a full-time basis.
- Alimony payments can be modified or terminated when the person paying alimony reaches full retirement age; however, a judge could order to continue payments if the receiver of alimony can demonstrate warranting circumstances through the statutory factors.
- Reimbursement alimony would not be allowed to be modified.
- Person paying alimony is allowed to apply for modification of alimony after a minimum of 90 days of being unemployed. The courts would also have more discretion over cases where a payer has become unemployed or there is a major change in his or her financial circumstances.
If you have any questions regarding your divorce or alimony, please schedule an appointment with one of our family law attorneys at 1-877-267-0089.
Source: Michael Booth, Major Overhaul of Alimony System is Approved by N.J. Assembly, New Jersey Law Journal (June 26, 2014).