After a 2 ½ year debate, Governor Christie has signed alimony bill A845 into law. The new alimony law takes effect immediately.
The major changes to the current alimony statute, N.J.S.A. 2A:34-23, are as follows:
- The term “permanent alimony” has been deleted and replaced with the term “open durational alimony,” giving the courts discretion to modify or potentially terminate alimony under certain conditions;
- For marriages or civil unions less than 20 years in duration, the term of alimony may not exceed the length of the marriage or civil union, except under “exceptional circumstances.” “Exceptional circumstances” are further identified as 8 separate considerations under the new law, with the 8th factor being a “catch all” provision for any other factor “the court deems equitable, relevant and material;”
- An award of “reimbursement alimony” may not be modified;
- In determining an award of alimony, the court shall consider the nature, amount and length of any interim pendente lite support paid during the divorce proceedings;
- Judges are now required to make “specific findings on the evidence” about all of the statutory factors in determining an alimony award, and state whether certain factors are more or less relevant than other factors;
- The new law allows for a “rebuttable presumption” that alimony payments will end once the payor spouse reaches “full retirement age” of 67;
- The “rebuttable presumption” may be overcome under certain circumstances;
- The new law sets guidelines to allow the court to modify alimony if the payor spouse is out of work for at least 90 days, or otherwise suffers a reduction in income;
- In cases for a modification of alimony based on loss of employment or reduced earnings, the court has the discretion to make any relief granted retroactive to the date of the loss of employment or reduction of income;
- The new law provides that alimony may be terminated if the payee spouse co-habits with a partner in a mutually supportive, intimate personal relationship, even if they do not marry.
Importantly, the new law goes into effect today; it is not retroactive. Therefore, a payor spouse who already has a final judgment of divorce cannot seek to terminate his or her alimony payment based upon the new law. However, those individuals paying permanent alimony who are not yet of retirement age may be able to secure a reduction or termination of an alimony obligation once they reach retirement age. The new law provides that the payor spouse may bring an application to terminate alimony in such an instance, and that reaching “full retirement” age shall be deemed a good faith retirement age for purposes of reviewing the retirement application.
The new alimony law directly impacts anyone currently going through a divorce or dissolution of a civil union. The members of our Family Law team can assist in guiding you through the divorce/dissolution process and questions you may have regarding the new law.