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Changes in alimony laws await governor's signature

Legislators have sent a bill that seeks to change alimony laws in New Jersey to the governor for his signature. While Garden State residents supported changes to the alimony statutes, some are now asking the governor not to sign it.

The bill, A-845, is a combination of several bills, and the whole package was voted on in June. Some changes to the state's existing laws are obvious: Lifetime alimony, for instance, has been replaced with open durational alimony. For couples married less than 20 years, alimony must not exceed the length of the civil union or marriage. At the judge's discretion, this may be altered if exceptional circumstances exist.

Another issue concerns an ex-spouse receiving alimony who lives with someone to whom they are not married. A judge may terminate spousal support if this is proven. Additionally, if a supporting spouse is unemployed for 90 days or longer, the court will have the power to lower alimony payments. The court will also have the ability to lower or stop payments if the supporting spouse retires.

Those who oppose the legislation say the courts have too much leeway on certain decisions; they would rather the bill provided judges with formulas to determine alimony. Its supporters counter that formulas would be rigid and unable to deal with case specific issues. Finally, none of the changes are retroactive.

After two years of working on the bill, some are saying it is much like a divorce itself, full of compromise and negotiation. A-845 will not become law until it is signed by the governor.

Divorce in New Jersey can be a period of transition and dividing accumulated marital assets and liabilities. Alimony is a way for a lesser-earning spouse to receive support while he or she develops a skill or seeks employment. An attorney could help a spouse receive or provide a fair alimony amount or assist individuals seeking a modification in the amount of alimony they pay.

Source: NJ.com, "Coming up with changes to New Jersey's alimony laws was like going through a divorce: Quigley", Joan Quigley, August 12, 2014

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