Will New Jersey Follow Massachusetts’ Lead in Alimony Reform?

At least one private New Jersey citizens group is working toward making sure the words “till death do us part” refers to marriage and not alimony payments. The group, New Jersey Alimony Reform, is hoping State lawmakers can be persuaded to follow the example set by Massachusetts earlier this year and reform New Jersey’s alimony laws. (1)

Laws affecting the award and calculations of alimony payments vary from state to state. (2) If you have questions regarding New Jersey’s current alimony laws, particularly in Hunterdon County, contact the divorce lawyers at The Rotolo Law Firm in Lebanon, NJ.

This past fall, Massachusetts’ governor signed into law reforms that would eliminate lifetime alimony. Now, New Jersey and Florida are considering similar changes. (1)

Alimony, also known as spousal support, is intended to ensure that both parties can continue a lifestyle similar to the one they enjoyed while married. For the most part, New Jersey’s current alimony laws were written at a time when traditional roles of bread-winner and homemaker were more prevalent and were intended to ensure neither spouse was left destitute once the marriage ended and that the spouse who put family before career was compensated fairly.

There are currently four forms of alimony: permanent, lump sum, temporary and rehabilitative. It is the permanent alimony that currently is under fire. (3)

New Jersey Alimony Reform wants lifetime or permanent alimony eliminated. Instead the group wants terms of alimony awards to be legislated so that the awards are more equitable and fair to both the payor and the recipient. (1)

One of the problems with permanent alimony is that it does not allow for adjustments when the income status of either party changes. Couples find themselves going back to family court to plea for a change in the award to meet their changing needs or abilities, thus prolonging a relationship that should have ended some time ago. (2)

New Jersey Alimony Reform has been collecting stories that illustrate the inequities in the State’s current law. One such story involved a Hunterdon County man who was ordered to pay alimony in the amount of $4,000 per month at a time when his business was going strong. However, when the recession hit in 2008, his business began to flounder and, although he attempted to have the alimony award adjusted to reflect the change in his income, he was rejected – three times. (2)

One bill before the state Legislature has provisions to protect both parties in an alimony issue. The bill, sponsored by Sen. Sean T. Kean (R-Monmouth) would allow for alimony payments to cease once the payor’s income is reduced because of certain factors including unemployment, retirement, temporary disability or like conditions. Sen. Kean’s bill would also protect against the payor deliberately altering his or her income to avoid alimony payments. (1)

The senator plans to reintroduce his bill, which has been in the works for four years, next year hoping it will gain more attention in light of current economic conditions and the precedent set in Massachusetts. (1)

If you or someone you know has an issue with alimony payments in Hunterdon County, contact the divorce lawyers at the Hunterdon County-based law firm – contact The Rotolo Law Firm, in Lebanon, NJ.

(1) http://www.thedailyjournal.com/article/20111205/NEWS01/312050028/Alimony-reforms-NJ-proposed

(2) http://www.huffingtonpost.com/elizabeth-benedict/alimony-reform-sweeps-the_b_1088169.html

(3) http://www.divorcehq.com/alimony.shtml