The alimony laws in New Jersey could be getting an upgrade, depending on the success of two bills currently pending in the state Senate and Assembly Judiciary Committee. The bills seek to amend the state’s existing alimony statute, N.J.S 2A:34-23—the seventh such amendment since the Divorce Reform Act of 1971. New Jersey family attorneys say that these new alimony statutes reflect the efforts of lawmakers to keep up with the changes for marriage and divorce in the twenty-first century.
New Jersey legislature has traditionally relied on precedents set in case laws to determine alimony laws and payments, but with Senate Bill S2750 and Assembly Bill A3909, lawmakers hope to incorporate precedential case decisions into new laws. Both bills aim to do away with permanent alimony in the state, and to institute set policies for the duration and amount of all alimony awards.
The proposed bills plan to revise the criteria that is currently used in state family court to determine alimony, stating that “the court may attribute income to a party…[that] is voluntarily underemployed…based on that party’s age, physical and emotional health, earning capacity, educational level, vocational skills, and employability.” This provision emphasizes the responsibility of both divorcing parties to maximize their earning potential and incomes in considering alimony amounts.
If the new bills are passed, permanent alimony will be eliminated in all divorce cases in the state. The bills also include stipulations that alimony should not generally be more than 30 to 35 percent of the difference between the spouses’ incomes. The new requirements allow for exceptions made for extreme age or income disparity, physical abuse, or lack of property. All alimony payments must also be terminated once the payor reaches retirement age, even if he or she does not physically retire.
In the absence of permanent alimony, the new bills provide family courts with four new types of alimony to award divorced couples. The first, Indefinite Length Alimony, would be appropriate in marriages that had lasted more than twenty years. Rehabilitative Alimony is an option in cases where the spouse receiving alimony is looking for work, and cannot be paid out for more than five years, unless the courts determine that the couple has special circumstances. Reimbursement Alimony is awarded when one spouse has supported the other through college or graduate school, with the expectation that a degree would provide more opportunities for employment. The last and most common type, Limited Duration Alimony, is to be awarded based on the duration of the marriage in increments, provided the union lasted less than twenty years.
Neither bill has been brought to the state’s House of Representatives, but because S2750 and A3909 have so many similarities, family lawyers in New Jersey say that the alimony laws are likely to change as a result. If passed, these bills will go into effect almost immediately, on October 1, 2013.
The New Jersey family lawyers at law firm Helmer, Conley, and Kasselman, P.A., represent residents who have separated from or divorced their spouse and need help negotiating alimony decisions.