If you are presently going through a divorce and alimony is an issue or you are already divorced and are either paying or receiving alimony, then you could be affected if the proposed alimony law now pending in the New Jersey legislature passes. There is speculation that the law could pass as soon as within the next few months and quite possibly during the “lame duck” session – the time between the recent November election and the January 2014 start to a new legislative session.
The alimony reform bill proposes a significant change from current New Jersey alimony law. Currently, an award of permanent alimony could be made after the judge considers a number of factors, including the length of the marriage, the financial needs and resources of each spouse, and the marital lifestyle, to name a few. Also under current New Jersey alimony law, even where permanent alimony has been ordered, the paying spouse could later ask the court to reduce or terminate alimony where there has been a significant change in the financial circumstances of the parties, such as the paying spouse’s ability to pay or the needs of the spouse receiving alimony.
The proposed alimony reform law, however, if enacted, would end “permanent alimony” and create new guidelines for calculating the amount and duration of alimony awards. Specifically, alimony would automatically end upon a particular event such as the paying spouse reaching reasonable retirement age, which is presently deemed to be between the ages of 65 and 67. In addition, the court would only be able to consider awarding permanent alimony where the marriage had lasted at least 20 years.
Significantly, the proposed law would also permit former spouses to return to court to revise their alimony order that was already in place before the change went into effect. This means that if you are paying permanent alimony under an existing court order and the proposed alimony law becomes enacted, you could return to court to have your alimony obligation terminated upon the occurrence of a qualifying event such as retirement at a reasonable age.
We will keep you updated on this important piece of legislation. In the meantime, please feel free to contact us with any questions on how you might be affected in the event this law becomes enacted.