This week on September 10, 2014, Governor Christie signed into law a bill that would make major changes to New Jersey alimony law. The new alimony law took effect on September 11, 2014.
Significantly, under the new law, the term “permanent” alimony in current law will be replaced with “open durational” alimony.
The law will apply to divorces now in process and future divorces. It will not apply to those who are already divorced and either paying or receiving alimony.
Where a paying spouse is already divorced, however, once he or she has reached “full retirement age,” this will be deemed a “good faith retirement” (see below) when the court considers his or her application for reduction or termination of alimony.
The law defines “full retirement age” as the age at which a person is eligible to receive full retirement benefits under the Social Security Act. According to the Social Security Administration website, if you were born after 1959, this will be age 67. To determine at what age you are eligible to receive full social security retirement benefits, visit http://www.ssa.gov/pubs/ageincrease.htm.
For divorces now in process or future divorces, alimony may be reduced or terminated, either before or after the spouse paying alimony retires.
Where the paying spouse is eligible to receive full social security retirement benefits
Under the new law, the court will apply a rebuttable presumption that alimony terminates once the paying spouse reaches “full retirement age.”
If the paying spouse is eligible to receive such benefits but has not yet retired, “the court shall establish the conditions under which the modification or termination of alimony will be effective.”
Where the paying spouse seeks to retire before “full retirement age”
The new alimony law requires that in such an instance, the paying spouse must prove by “a preponderance of the evidence that the prospective or actual retirement is reasonable and made in good faith.”
Where the paying spouse makes support payments during the divorce proceeding
Under the new law, the nature, amount and length of support payments, if any, made during the divorce proceeding will now be a statutory factor that the court will consider when making an alimony award.
Where the spouses were married for less than 20 years
The length of time over which alimony is to be paid will not exceed the length of the marriage, except in “exceptional circumstances.”
Applications to Modify Alimony Payments
Where the paying spouse is self-employed
When a self-employed spouse paying alimony applies to the court for a modification of alimony because of an involuntary reduction in income, then his or her application must include an analysis that addresses both the economic and non-economic benefits the paying spouse receives from the business, and compares these benefits to those that existed at the time of the alimony order.
Where the paying spouse is not self-employed
When the paying spouse is not self-employed, he or she is not permitted to file an application with the court to reduce alimony payments until the spouse has been involuntarily unemployed, or has not been able to return to or attain employment at prior income levels – or both – for a period of 90 days.
Where the spouse receiving alimony cohabits with another person
Alimony may be suspended or terminated if the spouse receiving alimony cohabits with another person. Under the new law, “cohabitation involves a mutually supportive, intimate personal relationship in which a couple has undertaken duties and privileges that are commonly associated with marriage or civil union but does not necessarily maintain a single common household.”
Please call me at (973) 292-9090 to learn more about how the new alimony law will affect you.