In the New Jersey Law Journal from February 28th, New Jersey Alimony Reform is seeking to redesign how New Jersey courts award alimony payments. NJAR is looking to end the possibility of lifetime or “permanent” alimony. It believes current New Jersey alimony laws are outdated and do not encourage independence for divorcing couples. In its opinion, alimony should provide a transition period for the lower earning spouse to establish financial independence, rather than an extension of the marital lifestyle at the expense of the higher earning spouse. NJAR’s bill A-845 proposes stricter guidelines for how long alimony can be assigned, and limits to control the portion of the payer’s salary that can go to alimony.

Alimony reform is opposed by the State Bar Association’s Family Law Section because the section feels it would undermine the needs of stay at home parents who have sacrificed careers to care for children. A “cookie cutter” approach to determining alimony would be a mistake, according to the section. The State Bar feels that alimony should, in fact, be tied to marital lifestyle. Rather than a transition period, alimony should allow the receiver to maintain the lifestyle he or she enjoyed prior to the divorce.

In its measure A-1649, the State Bar suggests a list of factors to be considered by a judge when adjusting or terminating an alimony agreement. This includes providing evidence of changes in the payer’s financial situation, the age and health of each spouse, as well as the average retirement age in payer’s field. Basically, this measure puts factors into a bill that have already been identified in case law. A-1649 also includes a provision that would replace “permanent” alimony with the more open-ended “of indefinite term” alimony.

NJAR’s response to A-1649 has been positive, in that it agrees with the factors set forth in the measure. However, it maintains that alimony law needs guidelines that are easier to understand. It believes these guidelines will make settlements easier by having defined terms that prevent exhaustive litigation.

Divorce, custody, and alimony cases require quality, steadfast legal representation. If you or a family member is considering a divorce or in need of representation in an alimony matter, please contact NJ family law attorney Melinda M. Previtera.