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Alimony Reform

By Peter Van Aulen Esq.

On September 10, 2014, Governor Christie signed into law alimony reform. Said law makes significant changes to how alimony is awarded and modified in New Jersey. The changes made by NJ alimony reform are prospective and will not affect orders or settlements that existed before the law was enacted. One of the most major changes made to the law is that it eliminates permanent alimony and replaces it with “open durational alimony.” The court in determining the amount and duration of alimony shall consider the following factors:

  1. The parties’ need and ability to pay;
  2. The length of the civil union or marriage;
  3. The parties’ age, physical and emotional health;
  4. The standard of living established during the civil union or marriage and the ability of each party to maintain a reasonable standard of living;
  5. The parties’ educational background, earning ability, job skills and ability to be employed
  6. The party requesting alimony absence from the employment market;
  7. The party’s parental responsibilities for the children
  8. The amount of expense and time that the party seeking alimony would have to spend to obtain adequate education or training to acquire a suitable job, the availability of said education and training, and the prospect for future attainment of income and capital assets;
  9. Each party’s history of financial and non-financial contribution to the civil union or marriage including any contributions to the education and care of the children and whether there was an interruption of educational and personal career opportunities;
  10. The equitable distribution ordered of the parties’ assets and whether there was any payouts out of current income;
  11. Each party’s income from any assets they own.
  12. The tax treatment of any alimony award;
  13. The amount, nature and duration of pendent elite support paid by the payor spouse;
  14. Any other factor a court may deem pertinent.

All but one of these factors existed under the previous alimony law. However, NJ alimony reform added an additional factor of the “nature, amount and length of pendent elite support paid” (temporary support awarded during the divorce process) as a factor a court must consider in awarding alimony. The law also states that neither party has a greater entitlement to maintaining the standard of living enjoyed during marriage. Consequently, the law states that when a court is asked to award alimony it must “consider and assess evidence” in regard to all fourteen (14) statutory factors. If the court finds “that certain factors are more or less relevant than others” it must do so in a written ruling stating findings of fact and conclusions of law.

Marriages Lasting Less Than 20 Years

The new law also states for marriages or civil unions existing less than 20 years the total duration of alimony shall not exceed more than the length of the marriage itself except for exceptional circumstances. The exceptional circumstances are as follows:

  • Ages of the parties;
  • Duration and degree of one party’s dependency on the other during the civil union or marriage;
  • Whether a party has an unusual health issue or chronic illness;
  • Whether a party has given up a career opportunity or supported the career of the other party;
  • Whether a party has received a disproportionate share of the marital estate;
  • The affect of the marriage or civil union on either party’s capability to become “self-supporting” including, but restricted to a spouse or partner’s role as primary care taker of a child;
  • Tax considerations of the parties.

See my other articles on this website titled “New Jersey Alimony Reform And Retirement”, “New Jersey Alimony Reform and the Loss Of Employment Or Income”, and “New Jersey Alimony Reform and Cohabitation.” If you have any questions in regard to alimony reform and how it affects you, call me today for a free initial consultation at 201-845-7400.

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