Both the New Jersey Assembly and Senate passed an alimony reform bill that has been in the works for two and a half years. The bill is currently awaiting Gov. Christie's signature.
The proposed law eliminates the term "permanent" alimony and substitutes "open durational" alimony. For any marriage or civil union which is less than 20 years in length, the total years of alimony shall not exceed the length of the marriage unless there are exceptional circumstances. All of the statutory factors which have previously been in existence will still be considered in making any alimony determination.
The bill sets forth a list of exceptional circumstances which may require an adjustment to the duration.
- The ages of the parties at the time of the marriage or civil union and at the time of the alimony award;
- The degree and duration of the dependency of one party on the other party during the marriage or civil union;
- Whether a spouse or partner has a chronic illness or unusual health circumstance;
- Whether a spouse or partner has given up a career or a career opportunity or otherwise supported the career of the other spouse or partner;
- Whether a spouse or partner has received a disproportionate share of the marital estate;
- The impact of the marriage or civil union on either party's ability to become self-supporting, including but not limited to either party's responsibility as primary caretaker of a child;
- Tax considerations of either party;
- Any other factor or circumstances that the court deems equitable, relevant and material.
The bill also allows for modification or termination of alimony upon retirement at full retirement age of the payor; however, the rebuttable presumption in favor of alimony termination at that time may be overcome for good cause.
In the event of the loss of employment, the Court may consider the application for a modification of alimony if the party has been unemployed for 90 days.
Finally, the proposed law states that alimony may be suspended or terminated if the payee spouse cohabits with another person. Cohabitation is defined as "a mutually supportive, intimate, personal relationship in which a couple has undertaken duties and privileges which are commonly associated with marriage or civil union but does not necessarily maintain a single common household."
It is anticipated that Gov. Christie will sign this bill into law.