New Jersey lawmakers propose alimony reform

Divorce leaves many New Jersey couples vulnerable to financial challenges. In most cases, one or both spouses are forced to make drastic lifestyle changes. For some, the end of a marriage is often the beginning of many years of alimony payments.

Debate is heating up over a proposed New Jersey bill that would reform the state’s alimony system. Divorced people who are forced to pay alimony for a lifetime, even if the marriage lasted only a few years, are sometimes unable to cover the costs of their own medical bills, food, and other living expenses, and to save for retirement. Alimony reform supporters also argue that people who receive large sums of money in the form of monthly alimony payments may be less likely to seek employment or to remarry after the divorce.

Some women’s rights advocates oppose the reforms, arguing that women often put their careers aside to raise children so that their husbands can work full-time. When they divorce and try to re-enter the workforce, they may have fewer employment options, which means that they’ll face more financial struggles. The proposed law would also enable divorced people to renegotiate the terms of their alimony agreements after the divorce, which could be detrimental to former spouses who had planned to receive payments for a longer period of time.

Although women’s rights advocates argue that the reforms are unfair to women, there are some women who are obligated to make lifetime alimony payments to their former husbands. However, the percentage of women who pay alimony is unknown. Divorcing couples may want to work with an attorney who can help them reach agreements that are favorable to both parties.

Source: South Jersey Local News, “Bills in New Jersey Legislature could change alimony awards,” Judy Cohen Minches, May 16, 2013