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Understanding Permanent Alimony and Open Duration Alimony

Morristown NJ Alimony and Spousal Support AttorneysOne of the most commonly misunderstood legal terms is that of “permanent alimony”, and this misunderstanding is what to its name being changed to “open duration alimony” as part of New Jersey’s 2014 Alimony Reform Act. Introducing a variety of changes to New Jersey alimony laws, changing the legal name of permanent alimony to open duration 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 take a look.

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

A great part of the frequent misunderstanding people had of “permanent alimony” was the disconnect between the legal definition of “permanent”, and the way that permanent alimony actually 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, it would also terminate in the case that the dependent party remarried. Furthermore, the law recognized that permanent alimony obligations were also subject to review and potentially 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 were expecting 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 change in name however, the circumstances in which a spouse could expect to receive open duration alimony also changed significantly in the 2014 Alimony Reform Act.

Open Duration Alimony Lawyers Mendham, NJ

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

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 a two year period following the divorce. This type of alimony is usually referred to as “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 such time that either party passes away or the dependent party remarries. Of course, if certain circumstances change substantially for either party after the open duration alimony agreement is reached, the agreement can be modified, either an increase in alimony obligations or a decrease depending upon the circumstances in question.

Permanent Alimony Awarded Prior to 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.

This means that you may still be paying or receiving alimony in a “permanent alimony agreement”, and if so, it is important that you remember the details we discussed in the sections above regarding when permanent alimony may terminate, and also remember that permanent alimony can be modified given certain circumstances change for either party.

For a better understanding of changed circumstances which may lead to an alimony modification, please view our alimony modification page here.

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 in order to resolve whatever family law matter you are facing in a manner which 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 kind of alimony modification or alimony enforcement matter, please contact us online, or through our Morristown, NJ office at (973) 840-8970.