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Understanding Permanent Alimony & Open Durational Alimony in New Jersey

Morristown NJ Alimony and Spousal Support AttorneysOne of the most commonly misunderstood legal terms is that of “permanent alimony,” this misunderstanding is what to its name being changed to “open duration alimony” as part of New Jersey’s 2014 Alimony Reform Act. Introducing various changes to New Jersey alimony laws, changing the legal name of permanent alimony to open durational alimony, and clarifying exactly when this type of alimony can be awarded during a divorce represents perhaps the most significant changes in this bill.

But why was the name of permanent alimony changed, and when can open-duration alimony be awarded or modified in New Jersey? Let’s examine.

Why Permanent Alimony Isn’t Actually “Permanent,” Chester Spousal Support Lawyers

A significant part of people’s frequent misunderstanding of “permanent alimony” was the disconnect between the legal definition of “permanent” and how permanent alimony works. The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines permanent as “continuing or enduring without fundamental or marked change.” However, this was never true of permanent alimony, as not only would permanent alimony terminate upon the death of either party, but it would also terminate when the dependent party remarried. Furthermore, the law recognized that permanent alimony obligations were also subject to review and potential modification should certain circumstances change substantially for either party.

So, while permanent alimony was subject to being modified or terminated given certain conditions were met, many people heard the term “permanent” and expected whatever alimony agreement they signed at the time of their divorce to be unchanging and un-modifiable. This confusion over the understanding of the word “permanent”, and how it applied (or didn’t apply in many cases) to alimony settlements was what lead to the term “permanent alimony” being changed to “open duration alimony” in 2014.

Beyond this name change, however, the 2014 Alimony Reform Act significantly changed the circumstances in which a spouse could expect to receive open-duration alimony.

Open Duration Alimony Lawyers Mendham, NJ

Perhaps an even more significant change to “permanent alimony” in the Alimony Reform Act of 2014 was when open-duration alimony is awarded and how long alimony payments are expected to last.

For any marriage lasting less than 20 years, alimony can now only be sought for the same number of years as the marriage lasted. This means that if the marriage lasted for two years before ending in divorce, alimony can only be sought for two years following the divorce. This type of alimony is usually called “limited duration alimony” and is subject to the same termination and modification standards as open duration alimony.

On the other hand, if a marriage lasted for more than 20 years, financially dependent spouses can seek open duration alimony. If awarded, open-duration alimony will last until either party dies or the dependent party remarries. Of course, suppose certain circumstances change substantially for either party after the open duration alimony agreement is reached. In that case, the agreement can be modified, either by an increase in alimony obligations or a decrease, depending on the circumstances.

Permanent Alimony Awarded Before 2014, Alimony Attorneys Morris Township, NJ

So, while permanent alimony has now been changed to open-duration alimony, these changes to New Jersey alimony law were not retroactive, meaning alimony agreements signed before the release of this bill are not affected.

You may still pay or receive alimony in a “permanent alimony agreement.” If so, you must remember the details we discussed in the sections above regarding when permanent alimony may terminate and that permanent alimony can be modified if certain circumstances change for either party.

Please view our alimony modification page here to understand better the changed circumstances that may lead to an alimony modification.

Contact Our Morristown Alimony and Spousal Support Attorneys Today

At The Law Office of Townsend, Tomaio & Newmark, our attorneys have extensive experience helping our clients to draft, modify, and enforce alimony and spousal support agreements of all kinds in towns across New Jersey and Morris County, including Chester, Chatham, Mendham, Harding, Morris Township, and Morristown.

By practicing exclusively family and divorce law, our firm can focus on providing you and your family with the in-depth knowledge and experience you need and deserve to resolve whatever family law matter you are facing in a manner that protects your legal, financial, and familial rights and futures.

To speak with our legal team today in a free and confidential consultation regarding your divorce, your alimony agreement, or any alimony modification or alimony enforcement matter, please contact us online, or through our Morristown, NJ office at (973) 840-8970.