Governor Christie on Wednesday September 3, 2014 signed legislation that gives Judge’s somewhat clearer guidance about how to handle issues of alimony in general, cohabiting, retirement, and unemployment.

While the new law codifies some existing case law and shall we say “rules of thumb” that Judges in essence utilize, it still leaves a lot of questions unanswered, but seems to be the best that can be done at this point in time.

Our historic laws have been criticized as representing outdated models of work, longevity, relationships, and gender participation in the workforce, however, the new law does in fact clarify that alimony should be limited to the number of years of wedlock for couples who married less than 20 years.  Some critics of our pre-existing law have stated that the old statute was considered one of the most draconian and inflexible in the nation.  

As Thomas Leustek, president of the New Jersey Alimony Reform, has stated the bill “is as good as we can get.”

Other States will probably closely monitor New Jersey’s experience with the new law like that of Massachusetts.  Some other states like California, Connecticut, Florida, Michigan, Minnesota, North Dakota, Oklahoma, Oregon, South Carolina and Virginia are likely the next to follow New Jersey and Massachusetts.

New Jersey’s new law does not disturb established alimony orders, but will obviously play a role when people seek modification.  Judges should now expect that alimony will end when the payor reaches full retirement age as defined by the statute.  Moreover, anyone married less than 20 years should now not be required to pay alimony longer than the marriage except in “exceptional circumstances.”

As a practical matter, the party that will be receiving support should now plan that alimony will eventually end and if they cohabit for longer than 90 days alimony may also be terminated or suspended.

By Ari H. Gourvitz

Gourvitz & Gourvitz LLC.

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