In a recent decision, a New Jersey Superior Court Judge ruled that the alimony provisions in New Jersey’s 2014 Alimony Reform Act may be applied retroactively. The decision in this case spells significant implications for individuals who divorced before September of 2014 and are now seeking alimony reductions based on changed circumstances.
In 2014, New Jersey lawmakers enacted Bill A845, the Alimony Reform Bill, which included significant modifications to the State’s former policy regarding alimony. These changes took effect in September of 2014. Among the changes was a provision that allowed for alimony modifications based on changed circumstances, including a broader understanding of cohabitation. In other words, if an alimony arrangement was included in your marital settlement agreement and years down the road, circumstances have changed significantly for you or your former spouse, you may have grounds for an alimony reduction.
Some examples of grounds for an alimony reduction include: a significant involuntary decrease to your income, a significant increase in your former spouse’s income, your retirement (which is now considered the point at which alimony terminates entirely), your spouse remarrying, your spouse cohabitating with another person, a disability or serious health problems that impair your ability to work and earn income, or a substantial increase in the cost of living.
The aforementioned case, Mills v. Mills, addressed the question of whether or not the alimony reduction provisions implemented in 2014 could be applied to a case in which the couple divorced before these provisions took effect. In an opinion issued on October 7, Ocean County Superior Court Judge Lawrence Jones ruled that nothing in the Alimony Reform Legislation precluded the court from applying its provisions to divorce cases that occurred prior to its enactment. Judge Jones stated:
“An overly restrictive reading of the statutory amendments would have the impact of immediately blocking and prohibiting an entire generation of people, who happened to be divorced before September 2014, from ever invoking the liberalized terms of the amended statute.”
Essentially, Judge Jones opined that an alimony reduction based on changed circumstances should be applicable in any case in which it promotes fairness, regardless of the date of the divorce. The ruling in this case lays a foundation for future instances like it, meaning that New Jersey residents who divorced before Alimony Reform have the same access to alimony reductions as those who divorced after it.
For additional information as to how this may impact your eligibility for an alimony reduction or modification, contact the Morris County law offices of Townsend, Tomaio & Newmark today. One of our highly experienced New Jersey divorce attorneys will be happy to answer your questions and to provide you with a cost-free initial consultation.
For additional information regarding this issue, access the following article: Amendments Allowing Reduced Alimony for Changed Circumstances May Be Applied Retroactively, Judge Rules