That’s correct. The new law was signed into law in September 2014 and modifies the prior alimony statute. The biggest modification for divorcing couples is that the durational limits of alimony have changed. For any marriage that is less than 20 years in duration, the total amount of alimony shall not, except in exceptional circumstances, exceed the length of the marriage or civil union.
The term “permanent alimony” has been modified from the current alimony statute. However, the statute does continue to look at several factors, such as the need of the parties for second residences and the impact of an increase in living expenses on the ability of both parties to maintain a standard of living reasonably comparable to that which they established in the marriage or civil union. Neither party has a greater entitlement to that standard of living.
Where cases do differ from the durational limit, in the exceptional circumstances, the law still discusses the ages of the parties at the time of the marriage or civil union or at the time of the alimony award, the degree and the duration of the dependency of one party on the other during the marriage, whether the spouse or the partner has a chronic illness or unusual health circumstances, and whether either party gave up a career or career opportunity to support the career of the other party. Also, it considers whether one spouse or partner has received a disproportionate share of the marital estate, the impact of the marriage on either parties ability to become self supportive, including whether one person was a primary caretaker of a child, and tax considerations of the other party. These are very important modifications to the alimony statute as it previously occurred.
Co-habitation is also very important when negotiating alimony and this new statue specifically states that the court may suspend or terminate alimony if a payee cohabits with another person. Co-habitation is not defined by the statute as necessarily living in the same household, but by intertwining finances, such as joint bank accounts, joint responsibility for living expenses, recognition of a relationship within a social or family circle, living together, frequency of contact, sharing household chores, and whether there is any type of palimony agreement or other side agreements between the payee and the person with whom they’re in the relationship. All of these are important factors that have now been modified by the alimony statute and should always be discussed.
Alison C. Leslie, Esq. practices family law exclusively in her Morristown, NJ offices, where she offers her clients the individualized attention of a solo practitioner with the experience of a larger firm.