New Jersey Law Makers Pass Alimony Reform

Stories of financially strapped obligors  continue to pour into the Courts telling common tales of spouses falling into financial distress due to required alimony payments that have simply become a burden that has broken their back.  NJ.com highlighted the story of one man sent to prison because he, like so many well intending men was unable to make his alimony payments. Critics of the current system have been calling for reform, and legislators were listening. In a show of action, a new bill was  introduced that addresses this issue, providing factors to help guide judges when making alimony determinations.  This bill has since been passed into law and is now offering a glimmer of hope to legions of men who otherwise would be facing a future of chasing the unattainable.

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Details of the bill

The bill, Assembly No. 3909, was introduced for consideration on March 7 of 2013. One provision of the bill was intended to eliminate permanent alimony. Instead, the bill aimed to establish a set of guidelines that would assist in determining the amount of alimony appropriate for each situation, as well as an end date.

The types of alimony proposed within the bill include rehabilitative, limited duration and reimbursement. The bill also provides a series of considerations to assist the court when making its determination. The considerations listed include:

  • Need. The court can weigh the actual need of each party as well as the ability of the other party to make the payment.
  • Duration. The court can also consider the length of marriage prior to the separation.
  • Standard of living. The court can review the standard of living that each spouse was accustomed to during the marriage and attempt to set up payments to help allow each spouse to maintain a “reasonably comparable” lifestyle.
  • Job preparation. The court can also consider the time and cost it would take a spouse to properly prepare for returning to the job market, if needed. This could include the cost of additional education.

The bill which has now become law offers thirteen different factors, with the thirteenth allowing a court to consider any factors it may deem relevant. As a result, how each individual case is presented will play a role in the determination.

In addition, durational limitations are outlined with some specificity. The bill proposed that marriages or civil unions that were five years or less lead to payment of alimony for a time period spanning one half the life of the marriage or less. Marriages that were five to ten years can qualify for payments spanning 60 percent the length of the marriage, 10 to 15 years of marriage results in qualification for 70 percent the length of the marriage, 15 to 20 years receive up to 80 percent and over 20 years qualify for court discretion for an indefinite period of time.

Importance of legal counsel

Now more than ever since this bill has recently passed, the conversation reiterates the point that legal counsel serves an important role in a divorce proceeding. These professionals help to better ensure your case is properly represented, increasing your odds of a successful outcome.