- Elimination of awards of permanent alimony.
- Adoption of limitations to the duration of alimony based solely on the length of the parties’ marriage.
- Adoption of guidelines to determine the amount of alimony which would not exceed 30% - 35% of the difference between the parties’ gross incomes established at the time of the initial award.
- Mandating the termination of alimony upon the payer spouse attaining retirement age, regardless of whether the payer spouse actually retires.
- Providing for the termination, suspension or modification of alimony if the payee spouse should maintain a cohabitation relationship of at least three months.
- Applying the limitations to the duration of alimony retroactively to cases which have already been settled or resolved by Court determination with an award of permanent alimony.
Since the bill’s introduction, there has been considerable debate between groups advocating alimony reform and the bill’s opponents (including the State Bar Association) regarding these provisions and whether such dramatic changes are fair and appropriate. Those opposing the law’s passage argue that although the bill permits a judge to consider special circumstances, the law could result in unfair alimony awards to supported spouses who will not have the ability to earn a sufficient amount to support themselves at the marital standard beyond the limited alimony term provided by the bill. In other words, judges and matrimonial attorneys are used to applying various factors including ages of the parties, health of the parties, responsibilities of the parties toward child rearing and other related factors, in determining an alimony award that permits both parties to maintain the marital standard of living. Bill No. 3909, according to the opponents, could severely impact those who are at an economic disadvantage as a result of the parties’ marital decisions and will result in loss of the Court’s role of considering each matter on a case by case basis.
As a result of these views, on November 23, 2013, a different law was proposed (Bill No. 4525) which presents different, less severe, revisions to New Jersey’s Alimony Statute. The most notable change would be the elimination of the usage of “permanent alimony” awards and replacing it with “alimony of indefinite term”. This bill also provides substantial language which deals with modification of alimony awards in the event of retirement, loss of employment and cohabitation. Yet, advocates of alimony reform argue that all of these proposed changes to the language of New Jersey’s alimony law simply adopt prior Court decisions which have resulted in the need for alimony reform in the first place. In essence, they argue that the alternative bill will not result in alimony reform in New Jersey.
Based on the introduction of these competing bills, it appears that the State Legislature will be taking some time to consider both points of view. Regardless, it also appears likely that there will be changes to the way that alimony awards are made in this State and knowledge of these potential changes are important to those considering separation or divorce. Additionally, changes to New Jersey’s alimony laws may very well impact parties who are already divorced and for that reason, it may be beneficial for parties who presently have a permanent alimony arrangement (or a lengthy term alimony arrangement) to consider the possibility that their alimony arrangement may be subject to review.
For those contemplating separation or divorce in 2014, it is essential that they consult with an experienced matrimonial attorney at the earliest possible time to not only gain an understanding of the present law, but to also consider how best to proceed when changes to New Jersey’s alimony laws should occur.