Parties divorcing (or considering divorce) in New Jersey are all wondering how the changes to the alimony statute (N.J.S.A. 2A:34-23) in New Jersey affect them. While some speculated that the bill, signed into law by Governor Christopher Christie on September 10, 2014, would end “permanent alimony” and even provide a formula by which alimony would be calculated, the statute does not go that far. While the word “permanent” is removed relative to alimony, it is simply replaced by the phrase “open durational” alimony. In essence, it simply removed the insinuation that a paying spouse may need to pay alimony forever. There is no formula within the statute for the calculation of alimony. Additionally, the statute now provides that alimony will terminate upon the paying spouse reaching full retirement age, unless the supported spouse can offer a compelling argument as to why it should not.
Another notable change is the fact that the statute dictates that for marriages or civil unions less than 20 years, a paying spouse will not have to pay alimony for a term longer than the length of the marriage or union, unless “exceptional” circumstances exist. This means that a party can still make an argument for an alimony term to exceed the length of the marriage or union, and a judge could accept this argument. Therefore, this provision is not as iron-clad as it may seem on first glance.
Relative to cohabitation being a basis for termination, a very interesting change is the fact that a court may not find that there is an absence of cohabitation solely because the couple is not living together full time.
The Court also clarified that a party can file an application for a modification of alimony due to unemployment, but the paying spouse must have been unemployed for 90 days or more before filing that application. There was no such set timeframe in the previous version of the alimony statute.
While some of the changes to the New Jersey alimony statute are highlighted above, there are many other changes and nuances within the statute. It is advisable to speak to an experienced family law attorney to discuss the statute and its impact on you. Posted by Robyn E. Ross, Esq.