State likely to pass controversial alimony reform

When New Jersey couples decide to divorce, one party is often required to provide financial support for the other. Alimony payments are often necessary as both spouses shift to their independent lives. One state has proposed controversial family law reform that may affect divorce and child custody cases across the country.

New Jersey lawmakers could follow the example of one state that is considering major changes to its alimony structure. Only one other state has made similar reforms. In the majority of states, divorced people often pay alimony until their death, even if they were married for a short time. For some people, lifelong alimony obligations have become a financial burden that has prevented them from enjoying a comfortable retirement. If the governor signs the bill, alimony payments would only be required for half the number of years the couple was married. Under the proposed legislation, divorced parents would share equal custody of their children, but judges may continue to review the circumstances of each family.

If the law is enacted, alimony recipients' salaries would be used to set limits on the amount of alimony they receive, and current spousal support agreements could even be revised. Some of the law's critics allege that the reforms may have a negative effect on women in the state. However, some women bear the burden of lifetime alimony payments, and the bill has support from female lawmakers in both major political parties.

If the state's alimony reform shows success, other states such as New Jersey may follow suit. Despite the possibility of alimony reform, an attorney can work with divorcing couples to ensure that they reach a settlement that is fair to both parties.

Source: Fox News, "Florida lawmakers move to end permanent alimony, as governor weighs legislation," Joseph Weber, April 23, 2013