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Christie Signs Bill Revising New Jersey Alimony Laws

Christie Signs Bill Revising New Jersey Alimony Laws

On September 10, 2014, Governor Chris Christie signed a bill amending portions of NJSA 2A:34-23 governing the award and modification of alimony in New Jersey. The new law has many impacts on alimony, including the duration alimony is paid and the circumstances under which alimony may be terminated or modified.

For many years the courts in New Jersey have been unclear as to many alimony topics and their various sub-issues. Can a spouse be required to pay alimony for a period that exceeds the length of the marriage? Should an ex-spouse who pays alimony ("payor spouse") be required to pay alimony after retiring? How long must a payor spouse wait to reduce his or her alimony obligation after involuntarily becoming unemployed? What if the payor spouse's income was involuntarily reduced? Must a payor spouse continue paying alimony when the payee spouse is living with his or her significant other, even though they are not married?

As a general overview, the major changes in New Jersey alimony law, which to some extent clear up some of the above-referenced issues, include the following:

  • For marriages or civil unions that lasted fewer than 20 years, the length of alimony payments shall not exceed the length of the marriage or civil union, except in "exceptional circumstances"
  • There is now a rebuttable presumption that alimony will terminate when the payor spouse reaches full retirement age, unless the judge determines that setting a different alimony termination date is justified – Ultimately, the new law ends lifetime alimony
  • A divorced couples' assets at the time of the divorce cannot be considered when determining the payor spouse's ability to pay alimony following retirement
  • A payor spouse who becomes involuntarily unemployed or experiences an involuntarily reduction in income must wait 90 days after such event before filing a request to reduce his or her alimony obligation.

The law has also cleared up another point of contention left unresolved by the courts: can a payee spouse continue to receive alimony while "cohabitating" with his or her new romantic partner, even if the couple is not married? Prior to the passage of this new law, most New Jersey courts were not willing to modify alimony based upon the single fact that a payee spouse was cohabitating with his or her new romantic partner. Rather, the courts analyzed the circumstances of each case before determining whether to modify alimony. However, the courts were split as to what factors should be considered in analyzing whether cohabitation justified modification of alimony. Some courts required a finding that the cohabitation provided a financial benefit to the dependent spouse, while other courts believed that non-financial considerations into the relationship could be enough to warrant modification of alimony, and yet other courts required certain findings as to both financial and non-financial considerations.

Even more uncertainty was added to the equation due to the fact that the courts were not in agreement about what even constituted cohabitation. Must the couple reside together every day? Must the unmarried couple purchase the home together? What if the couple intentionally avoids intertwining finances?

The new law clears up some of the courts' previous inconsistencies with these issues and provides somewhat more predictability. The law provides that alimony may be suspended or terminated if the dependent spouse cohabits with a significant other, and the law goes on to list factors to be considered when assessing whether cohabitation is occurring. While the new law introduces clarity, modification of alimony in the context of cohabitation has not been made into an easily-determined black and white issue— the analysis remains complex.

Even after the amendment of NJSA 2A:34-23 regarding the various alimony issues, the law surrounding alimony in New Jersey remains complex, which is why it is best left to experienced attorneys to argue the specifics of each individual case. Jay Turnbach has over 18 years' experience in family law practice. If you are considering filing for divorce, are already divorced and wish to pursue a reduction or termination of your alimony obligation, or if you are retired and continue paying alimony, please call our office to schedule a free consultation today.

Categories: Divorce, Alimony
  • Choosing a Lawyer

    When you have the opportunity to hire one of the few Certified Matrimonial Lawyers in NJ, the selection process seems a bit easier.

    Why Hire Jay?
  • Establishing Custody

    When establishing child custody, we can help by finding the type that will work the best in your child's interest.

    View the Options
  • Get Started Today

    We look forward to helping you and your family move on to the next chapter in your lives! Speak with our firm today.

    Request Your Consultation

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Ocean County Divorce Attorney
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