Alimony reform bill under consideration
Hashing out finances could get easier for divorcing couples in New Jersey if a bundle of alimony reform measures gets signed into law.
Assembly Bill 845, touted by its authors as a melding of several viewpoints on the issue, passed by overwhelming majorities in the Senate and Assembly in June and is pending Gov. Chris Christie’s signature.
“We want to be fair to both those who receive alimony and those who pay alimony,” said Assemblyman Troy Singleton, D-7th of Palmyra, one of the primary sponsors.
Those who pay alimony will be happy to know that the bill emphasizes “open durational” payments versus permanent terms. Under the bill, the alimony duration in marriages shorter than 20 years cannot exceed the length of the union.
Those who receive alimony would favor the duration rule’s exception, which allows for longer terms in the event of extreme circumstances like a debilitating illness.
The bill also modifies factors that determine cohabitation and permits suspension or termination based on those factors. For example, living together full time is no longer necessarily required to establish cohabitation.
Retirement, the point of relief for alimony payers, was another issue that warranted provisions. The new law no longer ties retirement to age 67, when Social Security benefits begin, and allows the payee to argue for a “good faith” early retirement. The aim is to strike a balance between uniform guidelines that allow predictability and planning yet avoid a “cookie-cutter” approach to what often are complex individual situations, according to attorney Amy Goldstein, chairwoman of the family law division at Capehart Scatchard in Mount Laurel.
Goldstein was enlisted by Singleton to help draft the bill. Noting the inconsistency in case outcomes across the state, she considers the old system akin to “the Wild West.”
“Before this bill, alimony (judgments) were primarily driven by case law,” said Goldstein, who described the task of trying to fit a client into a fact pattern as “torturous.”
“There was a statute, but it was rather vague. How do you figure out the duration of alimony? The type, the length? What do you do if a party wants to retire? What if a party cohabitates but is still collecting alimony from a former spouse?” said Goldstein, who testified in favor of the bill before a Senate committee in June.
The legislation evolved from versions drafted by Singleton, Assemblywoman Pamela Lampitt, D-6th of Voorhees; and Assemblyman Charles Mainor, D-31st of Jersey City. The other primary sponsors are Sean T. Kean, R-30th of Wall; Thomas P. Giblin, D-34th of Clifton; Angelica M. Jiminez, D-32nd of West New York; and Craig J. Coughlin, D-19th of Woodbridge.
The final version resulted from lengthy meetings with stakeholders, including members of the Rahway, Union County-based New Jersey Alimony Reform and the New Jersey State Bar Association. In a statement of support for the bill, the bar association calls the measure “the best possible approach to address the issues raised by a broad coalition of organizations from across the state about New Jersey’s alimony laws.”
Previous alimony reform bills proposed by the Senate and Assembly drew backlash from the New Jersey chapter of the National Organization of Women. NOW-NJ was “vehemently opposed” to Mainor’s original version but gives the new measure “lukewarm support,” said the group’s acting president, Deb Huber.
“We’re relieved we didn’t get the Draconian reforms that had been proposed,” Huber said.
John Waldorf commented 2014-07-18 12:57:06 -0400
Julia Brown commented 2014-07-17 15:48:30 -0400This NON reform bill is just ridiculous! NOW pretends to want equal rights for women but they want to collect money from someone they were once married to wanted their freedom from. All this bill does is change some words and will do NOTHING for families. Check out
Texas laws for alimony .. they must be more sensible and living in the 21st century.
John Waldorf commented 2014-07-17 15:24:47 -0400Governor Christie Veto bill A845 as this bill is not an Alimony Reform bill at best it simply deletes all reference to “Permanent Alimony” with “Open Durational Alimony” the open period being determined by the Family Court Judges.
Citizen Alimony Reformers of New Jersey the Bill A 845 which was passed by the State Legislature and is heading Governor Christie’s falls way short of expectations to the point that I would not even call it a “Alimony Reform Bill”. The bill is a poor attempt at legislation which was meant to make the Alimony/Family Court more predictable. There are no alimony guidelines in the bill and as far as duration paid it is year for year of marriage. This was deemed to be a predictable concession. So if you were married for 15 years you will pay alimony for 15 years or if you were married for 5 years you pay for five years. One of the salient points is that this bill will more than likely increase the Attorney fees divorcing couples rather than the opposite, by not having Alimony Guidelines for the determination of alimony.
The bill attempts to factor in a prescribed age for retirement per Social Security definition, but it is still up to the Judge’s discretion. Permanent alimony is now called “open durational Alimony”. Just semantics here people purely semantics. The primary sponsors of the bill; Assemblyman Charles Mainor, Assemblyman Sean Kean, Assemblywomen Pamala Lampit, Assemblyman Troy Singleton, Senator Nicholas Scutari and Senator Sandra Cunningham all will get a notch on their gun for the worst legislation ever passed. Every word in the bill is ambiguous.
The bill is silent on the use of second spouse’s income on the recalculation of alimony support. What this means is that if the payer remarries that the payee can petition the court to increase their alimony because of the additional income of the second spouse constitutes a “changer circumstances”
The bill did address murderers in that they may not receive alimony (what maybe 1 case of this in state of New Jersey). The bill did not address the issue of a payer spouse working beyond their retirement age, in fact if the Judge deems that the person receiving alimony needs more retirement income you may not retire and must continue to work and pay for their retirement.