Since Governor Christie signed into law the New Jersey alimony reform bill in September 2014, many divorced or divorcing spouses have asked what it means for the duration of the alimony payment specific to his or her case.  Do you have reason for optimism?  Do you have reason for concern?  While the law is still

Change is finally here – On September 10, 2014, Governor Chris Christie signed into law substantial and significant amendments to New Jersey’s alimony law.  The law took immediate effect on that date.  I previously blogged about the now effective changes after the legislature passed the bill during the Summer, and we have prepared an Alert

After almost three years of legislative discussions, negotiations, arguments, and the like, alimony reform is coming to New Jersey in what is turning out to be light speed.  Late last week, the New Jersey State Assembly unanimously passed a compromised form of long-debated legislation that would represent what many consider to be a substantial overhaul

Wikipedia defines grey divorce as a "term referring to the demographic trend of an increasing divorce rate for older ("grey-haired") couples in long-lasting marriages."  Now while "grey divorces" of a short or mid length marriage provide challenges for a divorce attorney, many believe that divorces of long term marriages are easy.  Just whack up the assets 50-50, agree to permanent alimony and call it a day, right?  That is not an uncommon result, but does it really make sense to do so and not consider real life anticipated events such as retirement and the receipt of Social Security, to name just two. 

Typically, when marriages are longer than 20 years, the concept of permanent alimony seems like a no brainer.  When the parties are in their sixties (or maybe even late fifties) does this make sense?  What if the parties always discussed and agreed that at age 65, the husband was going to retire and planned and lived their life accordingly?  Now, at age 61, either party seeks a divorce (I was going to say the wife – but it really doesn’t matter).  Should this be a permanent alimony case? The default answer is yes but should there be more critical analysis to this? 

In this case, we can assume that all of the assets will be divided 50-50, except perhaps a business asset.  Even then, while business assets are usually disproportionately divided, for longer marriages, the non-titled spouse gets more than they would have in a shorter marriage (the fairness of this may be the subject of another post.)  In addition, it is likely that the amount of alimony afforded will not allow the payor to save substantially before the divorce and a normal retirement age in a few years hence.

If the agreement does not account for retirement, aren’t the parties just buying themselves more litigation in a few years?  Should consideration be given to allowing for retirement and the termination of alimony any time after retirement age without the need to litigate?  If that is the case and someone still works full time after the agreed upon retirement age, should alimony continue? 


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Yesterday, I blogged on the proposed alimony reform legislation in New Jersey.  At the end of that post, I posited the following questions.  Is this really a radical change, or in many respects, does it simply codify what is often done in practice anyway? Will it really take away advocacy when circumstances so require?

Aside from removing the term "permanent alimony" and perhaps sickening reaction in causes in some people, does the proposed legislation really do more than codify the case law or what was done in practice, in many respects.  Remember, is "permanent alimony" really permanent now anyway?  Can’t people seek to retire already and isn’t retirement a change of circumstances?  Don’t people already negotiate, when appropriate, limited duration alimony when people are divorcing close to retirement age, as opposed to buying a second litigation to occur a few years later? 

The following are some other random thoughts, in no particular order and of no particular importance. 

1)  Is "indefinite alimony" a nicer term for "permanent alimony"

2)  While certainly possible and appropriate in many circumstances under existing law for marriages of less than 20 years, permanent alimony was infrequently given in marriages less than 20 years after the limited duration alimony statute was enacted. In fact, I heard someone on a panel at the State Bar Convention last year state that 20 years was sort of a magic number ensuring permanent alimony.

3)   The concept of imputing income to someone that is unemployed or underemployed essentially  already exists in the case law and child support guidelines, and thus, really is not new.


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There has been an alimony reform movement that has been gaining traction throughout the country.  Some of the major concerns appear to be this issue of permanent alimony and the lack of uniformity in alimony awards, both in amount and duration, from case to case.  In the recent past, alimony laws have been reformed in Florida, Massachusetts and Maryland.  Is New Jersey next?

On March 7, 2013, A3909 was introduced in the New Jersey Assembly, which, if passed, would radically change alimony as we know it in New Jersey. 

The following are a highlight of the changes:

  • All references to permanent alimony are deleted from the statute, though, as noted below, for marriages of more than 20 years, an indefinite award of alimony can be be granted
  • The concept of imputing income to someone that is unemployed or underemployed, which already exists in the case law and child support guidelines, would be codified
  • The amount of limited duration alimony should not exceed the recipient’s need or 30 to 35 percent in the difference between the parties gross incomes at the time of the initial award, though a court would have the discretion to deviate.  Some reasons for deviation would be advanced age, chronic illness, unusual health circumstances, whether the payer is providing or ordered to provide health insurance to the recipient, sources and amounts of unearned income not allocated in equitable distribution, the recipient’s inability to become self-supporting based upon the abuse of the payer, and others, including a catch all "any other factors that a court deems relevant and material."


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