New Jersey’s 2014 Alimony Reform Act, N.J.S.2A:34-23, fundamentally changed the way that courts handle alimony in New Jersey divorces. There is no more permanent alimony in the state of New Jersey; legislators replaced permanent alimony with open-durational alimony, which is only available in long-term marriages of 20 years or more, where there has been a significant difference between each spouse’s earning capacity. The Act also made it easier in some respects to terminate or modify alimony payments in certain circumstances. Keep in mind, however, that the Act differentiates between alimony awards made before the effective date of the Act and after the effective date of the Act. As a result, the standard for changing the amount of alimony payments or terminating them altogether is different in some situations, depending on the effective date of the alimony award.
One major change to New Jersey alimony law is the ability of a payor to modify the amount of alimony payments if he or she loses a job. While in the past a payor had a larger burden to justify the modification of an alimony award, it has become much easier when the issue is employment-related. Under current New Jersey law, once an alimony payor has been involuntarily unemployed for a period of 90 days or more, he or she has the right to ask the court to modify the alimony amount. However, the payor must attempt to mitigate the loss and keep records of diligent efforts to replace employment.
There now is a rebuttable presumption that a payor’s alimony obligation should terminate when he or she reaches full retirement age under the federal Social Security Act. However, the other party can rebut this presumption in certain circumstances, if he or she can show good cause for continuing the alimony past the age of the payor’s retirement. In making a decision about rebutting this presumption, the judge must consider a number of factors, which include all sources of income and assets for both parties, the parties’ health, the sum and period of alimony paid, the amount and duration of economic reliance by one party on the other party, and the parties’ ages at the time of the marriage, at the time alimony was ordered, and at the time of their retirement. See Lepis v. Lepis, 83 N.J.139, 416 A.2d 45 (1980).
Furthermore, if payor wants to retire prior to full retirement age, the court must consider similar factors in deciding whether to modify or terminate the alimony award, as well as other factors, such as the payor’s reasons for retiring, the payor’s eligible retirement age at his or her workplace, and the payor’s ability to make the payments following retirement. However, a payor is not allowed to simply retire early in order to avoid paying alimony.
The attorneys of Argentino Family Law & Child Advocacy, LLC , know how difficult legal proceedings can be, particularly when they involve matters that are central to your financial well-being. If you are looking for help with a legal matter involving families or children, you need the advice and guidance of one of our attorneys. Contact our office today to set up a meeting with an experienced lawyer at Argentino Family Law & Child Advocacy, LLC, and learn how we can help you with your legal case.