Overhaul ends permanent alimony and makes it easier to reduce payments
In September of last year, New Jersey passed sweeping alimony reform legislation that is expected to have a big impact on family law cases in the state, according to The Record. The legislation brings a number of changes to spousal support in New Jersey, most importantly an end to permanent or lifetime alimony in most cases. The legislation has proven controversial, both for those who supported reform and those who were against it.
What has changed?
Under the new law, alimony payments will be limited to the length of the marriage. A court can only order a spouse to pay alimony for a maximum of 11 years, for example, if the marriage itself lasted 11 years. The law also stipulates that alimony payments end once the payer reaches retirement. However, alimony payments may continue beyond these limits in "exceptional circumstances," such as when the payee becomes permanently injured during the marriage and is unable to return to the workforce.
The law also makes it easier for payer's to reduce or terminate alimony in other circumstances. For example, according to NJ Advance Media, if the payee moves in with a new partner then in most cases his or her alimony payments will be terminated. Likewise, people paying alimony who have lost their job can apply to have payments reduced or terminated within 90 days.
While many agreed that New Jersey's old alimony laws were outdated, not everybody is happy with the changes. Those who were advocating for reform say the new law does not go far enough. For example, the changes will only apply to divorces filed after the law took effect and not retroactively. They also were hoping for clearer guidelines for how alimony amounts were calculated.
Other critics say that the law, while well-meaning, could have unintended consequences. For example, they say that the stipulation that alimony ends when the payee moves in with a new partner is too strict, especially since moving in with a new partner does not necessarily constitute a change in financial circumstances. Likewise, the rule that alimony ends when the payer reaches retirement-a rule that also applies to divorces filed prior to the law's passage-could hurt people who divorce later in life.
Family law representation
New Jersey's alimony reform is a significant step in how courts deal with spousal support and reflects changes that have been occurring across the country. The overhaul also show that when it comes to family law matters, people are still well advised to rely on a professional family law attorney in order to address their specific concerns. Alimony and other family legal issues remain complicated and difficult to understand for somebody without legal experience, but they can have a big impact on many people's emotional and financial lives. As such, relying on expert advise can help ensure that these serious issues are dealt with in a compassionate and expert manner.