New Jersey Alimony Reform Act
On September 10, 2014, Governor Chris Christie signed the New Jersey Alimony Reform Act into law. The Alimony Reform Act brought changes to New Jersey’s prior alimony statute.
Major Changes in the New Jersey Alimony Reform Act
The Alimony Reform Act contains a number of important changes.
Some of the most significant changes in the New Jersey Alimony Reform Act are as follows:
Limits for Marriages Lasting Fewer than 20 Years – If your marriage lasted fewer than 20 years, the courts cannot grant alimony payments that exceed the length of the marriage except under exceptional circumstances. Possible “exceptional circumstances” include:
- The spouses’ ages at the time of marriage and divorce
- The degree and duration of dependency of one spouse on the other during the marriage
- Whether either spouse has a chronic illness or other serious health condition
- A disproportionate equitable distribution
- The impact of the marriage on either spouse’s ability to become self-supporting
- Adverse tax implications
- Clarifying Each Spouse’s Right to Maintain Their Standard of Living – While the old alimony law included the spouses’ marital standard of living as a factor to be considered in calculating alimony, the new alimony law includes a clarification that neither spouse should have “a greater entitlement to that standard of living than the other.”
Ending Alimony Upon Cohabitation – Under the revised law, the New Jersey courts have the power to terminate or suspend alimony payments to a former spouse who cohabitates with a new romantic partner, even on a part time basis.
Reducing Obligations for Out-of-Work Payers – If you have been out of work for 90 days or longer, you can now seek to have your alimony payment obligation reduced.
The End of Permanent Alimony in New Jersey
Along with these changes, perhaps the single most important change within the Alimony Reform Act is that it brought an end to permanent alimony in New Jersey. The words “permanent alimony” in the statute are replaced with “open durational alimony.” If a payor party should elect to retire upon reaching the age where he or she would be eligible for full social security benefits, the retirement will be rebuttably presumed to be in good faith. That does not necessarily mean that alimony will end, because the presumption can be rebutted under certain circumstances which usually depend on the supporting spouses for example continuation to earn an income from business interests. This presumption applies not only to new divorces, but arguably to existing permanent alimony awards as well.