How New Jersey's alimony laws are changing

The effects of a divorce can truly last a lifetime for New Jersey spouses and other family members. Some of these may impact people only occasionally when a particular date on the calendar stirs emotions of a former relative’s birthday or other event. Other things, however, provide ongoing reminders of the challenges of a divorce. Alimony can be one such thing, especially when ordered for extended periods of time.

Last year, New Jersey legislators enacted a new bill that eliminated lifetime alimony. Prior to this change, a spouse could be ordered to pay alimony well into old age. For many people, this prevented the ability to retire and contributed to serious financial challenges including the need to file for bankruptcy and more. This portion of the new law will actually be enacted retroactively, giving relief to people.

Other elements of the new law will only apply to divorce orders finalized after its enactment. The new law also includes a provision that allows payees to request amendments to spousal support orders if they have been unemployed for at least three months instead of waiting 12 months. That one-year period was the standard under previous laws.

A non-profit advocacy group called New Jersey Alimony Reform applauds these efforts but believes that more is needed to make alimony awards fair. They believe that further reform is needed to prevent retirement funds included in a property distribution settlement from being used again in alimony decisions, for example. The group indicates that greater consistency in and limits on award amounts could help to lessen the burden on courts as well as facilitate independence of all parties.