The law establishes guidelines for judges to follow when determining limited-duration alimony, based on the length of the marriage or civil union:• If the couple was together for five years or less, the term of alimony would be a maximum of half the number of months of the marriage or civil union.
• If the duration of the relationship was between five and 10 years, the term of alimony would be a maximum of 60 percent of the number of months of the marriage or civil union.
• For a marriage or civil union that lasted between 10 and 15 years, the term of alimony would a maximum of 70 percent of the number of months of the relationship.
• If the marriage or civil union lasted 15 to 20 years, that amount would be a maximum of 80 percent of the number of months of the relationship.
• For a marriage or civil union that lasts 20 or more, the judge would have discretion to award alimony for an indefinite period of time.”
The old permanent alimony extended beyond normal retirement. But the new law states that Alimony payments would terminate when the payer reaches full retirement age or becomes eligible for retirement benefits under the Social Security Act. Judges, however, would be allowed to order alimony to continue if the recipient can prove by clear and convincing evidence that continued payments are necessary. “Alimony payments would terminate when the payer reaches full retirement age or becomes eligible for retirement benefits under the Social Security Act. Judges, however, would be allowed to order alimony to continue if the recipient can prove by clear and convincing evidence that continued payments are necessary.”
These are major changes.
Here’s the complete article. The governor signed the law in September.
The New Jersey Assembly on Thursday passed legislation that would drastically alter how alimony is awarded in divorce cases.
The combined bill, A-845/971/1649, would, if enacted, eliminate permanent alimony in most cases and give judges and practitioners a set of factors to follow to determine how long alimony can be awarded and when alimony payments can be stopped or terminated.
The bill passed in a 75-0 vote several hours after the Assembly Judiciary Committee recommended passage.
“We’ve reached a point where both sides are satisfied,” said one of the chief sponsors, Assemblyman Charles Mainor, D-Hudson, referring to groups who want the changes made and those who wanted the system to remain the same. “Our current alimony laws are ancient.”
Mainor told the committee that he and the other sponsors have been working with interest groups and the New Jersey State Bar Association for 2½ years to craft the legislation.
“The bill offers predictability to both sides” in a divorce action, said another of the sponsors, Assemblywoman Pamela Lampitt, D-Camden.
Changes called for in the bill are prospective and would not apply to divorce settlements or orders already in effect.
In any case in which a party asks for alimony, a judge would be required under the bill to issue a written ruling explaining his or her analysis of relevant factors in determining whether there should or should not be an award of alimony.
If the marriage or civil union lasts less than 20 years, alimony would not exceed the length of the relationship, but for exceptional circumstances.
In addition to the factors already in the statute, judges would have to consider the ages of the parties when they were married and when the relationship ended, the need for separate homes, the ability of both parties to maintain a standard of living, the dependency of one party on the other, whether one party has particular health issues and other relevant issues.
Judges would be allowed to suspend or terminate limited-duration alimony if the recipient establishes a cohabitation relationship. A judge could order alimony to be resumed if the cohabitation ends, but could not extend it beyond the original termination date.
In cases of cohabitation, judges would have to analyze, among other factors, the cohabitants’ joint finances, recognition of the relationship in the couple’s social and family circle, duration of the relationship and sharing of household chores. A judge would not be able to reject a claim of cohabitation solely on the grounds that the couple does not live together on a full-time basis.
The bill says alimony payments may be modified or terminated when they payer reaches full retirement age. Judges, however, would be allowed to order alimony to continue if the recipient can demonstrate through a series of factors that alimony should be continued.
Reimbursement alimony would not be allowed to be modified.
The bill would give greater authority to modify alimony awards if the payer becomes unemployed involuntarily or sees a dramatic change in his or her financial circumstances. A payer who loses his or her job would be allowed to apply for a modification in payments after being unemployed for a minimum of 90 days.
Work on the bill began in earnest on May 9 after Judiciary Chairman John McKeon, D-Morris, met with the interest groups in an effort to get it passed before the summer recess.
Jeralyn Lawrence, the chair of the State Bar Association’s Family Law Section, said she, the sponsors and representatives of other interest groups drafted the bill’s final version on Wednesday. It was an amalgamation of five different bills that had been proposed.
Lawrence, of Bridgewater’s Norris McLaughlin & Marcus, said language that tied the duration of alimony to the number of years of the marriage or civil union was taken out and replaced with the rebuttable assumption that alimony would end when the payer reaches retirement age.
There was, she said, a great deal of give and take in the days leading up to the committee’s vote. “Nobody got 100 percent of what they wanted,” Lawrence said.
Two members of the Judiciary Committee—Assemblywoman Holly Schepisi, R-Bergen, and Assemblyman Michael Patrick Carroll, R-Morris—expressed some doubt about voting on a major piece of legislation that they had received only minutes before the meeting began. They agreed to support it, however, after receiving assurances from the various interest groups that the legislation was acceptable.
Sole custody is where one parent, normally the primary residential parent, can unilaterally make all decisions related to the children’s health, safety, education and welfare.
Joint legal custody requires that both parents confer and agree upon major decisions affecting the children’s health, safety, education and welfare. However, minor decisions and decisions taken in emergency situations are usually the responsibility of the poarent with whom the children are with at the time.