Last fall, New Jersey significantly revised our alimony statute. Many of our legislators, family law attorneys, and other interested individuals worked very hard to negotiate this landmark law. When you are choosing an attorney, be sure that attorney knows the changes inside and out. For example, there is now a rebuttable presumption that alimony terminates at the payor’s Social Security retirement age. Duration of alimony cannot exceed the length of the marriage, except in exceptional circumstances (defined in the statute). The statute now states that both parties have equal entitlement to approximate the marital standard of living. Most importantly, “permanent alimony” has been eliminated and replaced with “open durational alimony.”
The changes to the alimony statute affect alimony payors and recipients during the negotiation phase of the Settlement Agreement. They also affect recipients and payors for years to come. Early retirement is possible in some cases. There is now a waiting period before a payor who loses their job can file an application to modify alimony. Cohabitation may suspend or terminate alimony. The Court may suspend, reduce with terms, direct alimony be paid from assets, or any other remedy it deems fair and equitable.
The statue represents a compromise among several interests, including the legislature’s constituency, the legislators themselves, and the practitioners who represent families on a daily basis in court and in settlement. Yes, even in settlement the alimony statute matters, because it provides a backdrop for what New Jersey believes is public policy in our state. In negotiations, you can deviate — but expect to give up something in return. An experienced family attorney will advise and guide you, whether it’s during negotiations or one of the future changes in circumstances that could affect alimony.