Less than a month ago, I wrote in this Blog about the growing movement for future alimony reform in New Jersey divorce cases.
As it turns out, the future is now.
On March 7, 2013, an alimony reform bill was introduced in the New Jersey State Assembly. The impact of that bill, if passed by both Houses of the New Jersey Legislature and signed by the Governor, simply cannot be overstated.
First and foremost, the proposed bill would end permanent alimony in New Jersey divorce cases and replace it with limited duration alimony.
Second, unless the court found that it was “necessary,” the amount of the limited duration alimony could not be more than your ex-spouse’s need or 30 to 35 percent of the difference between your gross incomes at the time of the alimony award.
Third, unless the court found that “the interests of justice” required otherwise, the length of your limited duration alimony obligation could not exceed 50% of the number of months of your marriage if you have been married 5 years or less, 60% if you have been married up to 10 years, 70% if you have been married up to 15 years, and 80% if you have been married up to 20 years. The court would only have discretion to award alimony for an indefinite period of time if you have been married for more than 20 years.
Fourth, your alimony must terminate once you reach the age when you are eligible for Social Security Retirement, and your ability or decision to keep working after that date does not justify extending the alimony. The only exceptions are: (1) when it makes an award of alimony, a court can set a different termination date for “good cause;” and (2) the court may extend an existing alimony award, if it finds that there has been a “material change in circumstances supported by clear and convincing evidence.”
Think it’s too late because you already pay alimony? Not so fast. The proposed new law would allow for the modification of existing New Jersey alimony awards.
It provides that, unless the court finds that a deviation is warranted, you will be able to have your permanent alimony award converted to limited duration alimony, or your limited duration alimony award changed to conform to the term limits in the proposed law.
The proposed effective date of the bill is October 1, 2013. To modify an existing alimony award, you would have to petition the court within two (2) years of the bill taking effect. However, you would need to make sure that you and your former spouse did not agree in your New Jersey divorce that alimony couldn’t be modified because, if you did, the provisions of the new proposed law would not apply.
Stay tuned for updates about the progress of the proposed legislation through the State Assembly, as well as how the State Senate and the Governor choose to handle the alimony reform issue.
Salvaggio Law Group LLC devotes its entire practice to New Jersey Divorce and Family Law matters, including the all-important issue of alimony. If you want to talk, please call us at 973-855-3595 or fill out the Contact Form on our website.