July 28, 2014: New Jersey Alimony Law May Soon Undergo Reform
After nearly two-and-a-half years of consideration, the outdated alimony law in New Jersey may soon undergo a much-needed reform. At the end of June, both the State Assembly and the New Jersey State Senate approved a reform bill intended to update the State’s legal treatment of alimony, also known as spousal support, in all future divorce cases.
Over the past two years, various State lawmakers have brought forth proposals for revisions to New Jersey’s alimony laws; the newly approved alimony bill is the collaborative result of those multiple proposals. Due to the individual goals and agendas of the multiple interests groups behind the proposals, the completed bill involves compromise on several issues.
“It is critical that any change in the law continue to permit individual situations to be addressed by the Courts,” says Patricia Barbarito, a family lawyer with Einhorn, Harris, Ascher, Barbarito & Frost P.C. in Denville, NJ. “Perhaps certain areas of the present alimony law required reform, however, no one should have their very personal and individual circumstances resolved in a ‘one size fits all’ manner. The desire for the expeditious resolution of cases should never occur at the expense of a just resolution, which often requires a court to understand the unique nature of every case.”
One of the most notable changes to NJ’s current alimony laws suggested by the new bill is the replacement of the term “permanent alimony” with “open duration alimony”. Law updates would also include giving the courts specific guidelines for making decisions regarding alimony duration on a case-by-case basis. Courts would be provided with a list of special circumstances under which alimony payments could be stopped.
Additionally, the bill provides judges with the authority to suspend, terminate, or reinstate alimony payments based on the initiation or breakup of new cohabitation relationships. The reform would also address the impact of financial hardships and how reaching the age of retirement in New Jersey would affect alimony agreements.
Another stipulation of the reform bill is that a judge must provide a written explanation as to how they arrived at an alimony decision in any case where alimony is requested in the divorce agreement.
The bill is now awaiting approval from Governor Chris Christie, which is necessary before it can be passed into law.