Governor Christie and the Proposed Alimony Reform
by: W. Les Hartman
Alimony reform may soon be a reality in New Jersey as a result of a bill that is currently awaiting action by Governor Christie. The proposed legislation, which recently passed the New Jersey Assembly and Senate, would modify New Jersey Statute 2A:34-23 by eliminating permanent alimony going forward. The bill also sets forth several factors which would be utilized to determine the length of an alimony award, and under what circumstances it can be terminated or reduced. In the coming weeks, Governor Christie will choose to sign the bill into law, veto it, or conditionally veto it and send it back to the legislation with suggested changes.
The idea of the bill is to allow for more predictability and less variation for both parties’ in divorce cases. The proposed legislation would do away with the concept of permanent alimony and would limit payments in any marriage or civil union to less than 20 years. In cases where a marriage or civil union lasts less than 20 years, any alimony awarded would not be able to exceed the length of the relationship, except for exceptional circumstances. For example, if a marriage lasted only 5 years, alimony would not be able to exceed 5 years.
Alimony Reform in NJ
While the bill does not act retroactively to affect current payers, it would allow current payers to seek modification or termination of their obligations when he or she reaches the federal retirement age of 67. In addition, the bill proposes to make it easier for current and future payers to modify their alimony obligation in the event of involuntary unemployment or other significant changes in the payor’s financial circumstances.
Critics of the bill have complained that it falls short of correcting New Jersey’s outdated alimony legislation, which is allows for much more generous alimony than in surrounding states. However, proponents of the bill feel that the pending legislation strikes an appropriate balance between the existing legislation and previously proposed bills. Regardless, present and future alimony payors and recipients alike eagerly await Governor Christie decision on the reform bill.