Governor Christie Signs Alimony Reform Bill into Law
By Snyder & Sarno on September 11, 2014
We recently blogged about proposed legislation to amend the law in New Jersey regarding alimony. This week, as reported by NJ.com, Governor Chris Christie signed the alimony bill into law, drastically changing the way that alimony will be handled in New Jersey. Specifically, there are a number of major revisions discussed below.
The new law changes the term “permanent” alimony to “open durational” alimony. This change reflects an effort to reduce alimony payments that could last for the rest of the parties’ lifetimes. The law directs courts to make specific, written findings of fact and conclusion of law regarding their alimony decisions between the parties, especially if they weigh one factor more heavily than another in their consideration.
Notably, for any marriage lasting less than 20 years, and except in exceptional circumstances alimony cannot exceed the length of the marriage. For example, if the divorcing couple was married for 5 years, except in exception circumstances, the term of alimony can only last for a maximum of 5 years.
In addition, the law provides that alimony can be modified or terminated upon the payor’s retirement, whether the retirement is prospective or actual. In fact, there will be a rebuttable presumption that alimony will terminate when a partner reaches “full retirement age.” However, this presumption can be refuted if good cause is shown and the court is directed to consider a number of factors outlined in the statute when making this determination. If a payor intends to retire before reaching retirement age, he or she will have the burden of showing that the early retirement is reasonable and done in good faith.
The statute also outlines a number of factors to be considered when a party attempts to modify alimony based on changed circumstances, particularly if a payor loses his or her job. Under these circumstances, a judge may be able to suspend, lower or otherwise modify the alimony payments.
Under the new law, cohabitation is grounds for termination or modification of alimony, even if the partner that is cohabiting does not remarry or even live with the new individual. The new law sets out a number of factors to consider when determining if the payee is in fact cohabiting.
While we’ve highlighted a number of major changes in the alimony reform bill, there are other subtle changes. Nevertheless, this new law will change the way that alimony is handled in the courts. If you are divorced, are currently going through a divorce, or wish to file for divorce in the future, this new law could impact the way that alimony is addressed in your case. In order to navigate this changing legal landscape, the experienced matrimonial attorneys at Snyder & Sarno, LLC can help. Call us today at (973) 274-5200.
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