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
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
- 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
- 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
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.