The State of New Jersey is poised to follow the lead of other states enacting alimony reform laws. Currently, there are two bills being considered in the Assembly, one of which is modeled on the newly-adopted Massachusetts law. Although the second bill has less dramatic changes to the current alimony system in place in New Jersey, this analysis looks at the bill sponsored by Assemblyman Charles Mainor (D., Hudson).
Alimony is meant to provide financial support for the lower earning spouse to allow him or her to become self-sufficient, whether this is through entering the workforce after a long time away or getting the education necessary to begin a new career. Advocates of reform view alimony as a transitional support mechanism rather than a source of lifetime support.
The reform is intended to:
- Rename permanent alimony to indefinite alimony.
- Promote independence for both parties to the divorce.
- Make alimony proportionate to the duration of the marriage. A woman who was married to her husband for twelve years should not have to pay him alimony for forty years because he has a back injury and cannot work.
- Impose reasonable restrictions on how much alimony is awarded. If there is a large disparity between the income of the husband and the wife, the lower-earner still will receive a sizeable award, but it will be based on a percentage of the difference between the incomes rather than an arbitrary amount. This will reduce the amount of litigation and fighting over how much alimony is awarded, which consumes a lot of time and money in the New Jersey court system.
- Eliminate the inclusion of assets in multiple calculations. If there is a division of retirement assets as part of the division of property, then those assets should not be included in the calculation of how much the payer can afford to pay his or her spouse after retirement.
- Permit payers to retire without being penalized.
- Create a process where the grant of alimony is based on a mathematical formula, thereby ensuring consistent awards throughout New Jersey, rather than relying on the discretion of judges with vastly divergent views of what a reasonable alimony award would be. This does not mean that courts lose the right to deviate from the guidelines when specific circumstances justify this action.
- Reduce the time spent in litigation or mediation for parties going through a divorce. The fight over how much alimony is appropriate can be the most contentious part of a divorce and lengthen the process considerably.
- The goals of the Mainor Bill, which is still subject to negotiated changes in terms, are advocated by a group of New Jersey residents, New Jersey Alimony Reform, who have fought for a complete overhaul of an alimony system that they deem to be unfair and repressive. These individuals want to see a dramatic change of the alimony system while supporters of the alternate bill promote fairness through less aggressive modifications. The specifics of the other bill, sponsored by Assemblyman Thomas Giblin (D., Clifton), are still being worked out, but the bill does address many of the same points while preserving judicial discretion.
Although it is not a guarantee, there is a great likelihood that one of these bills will be enacted in the State of New Jersey and those going through a divorce are going to be impacted. The knowledgeable and experienced attorneys at The Micklin Law Group, LLC will react to the changing law in order to bring the most benefit to their clients. In order to discuss your case in a confidential consultation, without charge, please call us at (973) 562-0100.