The Impact of the New Alimony Law in New Jersey
New Jersey’s alimony laws were long criticized as being outdated and in need of a face lift. In 2015, Governor Christie responded to these calls and signed a new alimony law, changing whether couples will need to make alimony payments to ex-spouses and for how long.
Say “Goodbye” to Permanent Alimony
In the past, some spouses ended up paying alimony to their exes until death. At one point in time, this might have made sense. Prior to the 1960s, many women were excluded from receiving an education or working in middle-class occupations, so a divorce could cause them to end up impoverished. The only way to guarantee a certain living standard was to force husbands to pay their ex-wives alimony for life.
Of course, a lot has changed in the past 50 years. Women now make up almost half of the workforce and earn the majority of college degrees. Older adults can also more easily return to school to bulk up their skills and credentials. For these reasons, there are fewer situations where a spouse needs lifetime payments.
The 2015 law undermines permanent alimony in two ways:
● First, spouses can apply to stop paying alimony when they reach the federal retirement age (now 67).
● Second, the law states that alimony cannot exceed the length of the marriage if you were married for less than 20 years. Exceptions exist for “exceptional circumstances,” such as lifelong disability, but they should be rare.
Reduce Your Payments if You are out of Work
Previously, an unemployed spouse could request a reduction in alimony payments if he or she was out of work for at least a year. Now, the spouse only needs to be out of work for three months before requesting a reduction, which means that he or she can much more easily find relief in court.
Stop Payments if Your Ex Cohabitates with Someone Else
The law clarifies when you can stop payments because your ex has now moved in with a new partner. To determine whether your ex is now cohabitating with another, a court will examine many factors, such as:
● How entwined their finances are
● Whether they share joint responsibility for their living expenses
● Whether the couple makes their relationship public
● How frequently the couple sees each other
These changes make it harder for an ex to claim a new partner is not financially supporting them.
Alimony is Still Available
The new alimony law has not done away with alimony altogether. Spouses can still request alimony, and judges will decide whether to grant it on a case-by-case basis. For example, you can still receive alimony if:
You made contributions to your spouse’s career. A common example is working while your spouse earned a college degree. In this and similar situations, you can be reimbursed for your contributions.
You need time to gain education or work experience. New Jersey allows for short-term alimony to help rehabilitate you and get you back on your feet. You need to show a detailed plan of what steps you will take, how much money you will need, and the duration of alimony necessary for rehabilitation.
You make substantially less than your spouse. Alimony is still a possibility where a divorce will radically reduce your standard of living. However, spouses should expect alimony to be short-term and not lifetime.
Whether alimony is available requires a careful case-by-case analysis. Divorce lawyer Elena K. Weitz, Esq. has been helping divorcing couples navigate the state’s laws for years and is here to help. Contact her today for an initial consultation.