New Jersey State Bar Association - The voluntary Bar Association of New Jersey, serving members since 1899.

Legislative Alert: Alimony Legislation

The state bar association, whose members include attorneys who represent those who pay alimony and those who receive it, is pleased that ACS for A-845, 971, 1649/SCS for S-488, 1808 has been signed into law. This provides an important update to the state's alimony laws. It provides a realistic and balanced approach for New Jersey citizens that doesn’t sacrifice judicial discretion or fairness. 

The measure, which the association’s members helped draft, addresses issues raised by a broad coalition of organizations about the state of New Jersey’s alimony laws. As an organization whose members include attorneys who represent those who pay alimony and those who receive it, the NJSBA worked hard to find a solution that recognizes each marriage as unique, while providing a level of predictability to all those involved in the process. The changes also reflect the evolving case law and the realities of the current economic times, while preserving the goal that change to alimony should be a blend of fairness and predictability to both sides in a divorce.

The NJSBA spent months working to craft the legislation, which provides practical circumstances under which someone can request and receive a modification or termination of alimony. It also provides for considerations related to changes in economic circumstances, cohabitation and retirement of the parties. 

Importantly, it offers those involved in matrimonial disputes reasonable guidelines to ensure a predictable outcome, while at the same time preserving judicial discretion and fairness to ensure that each case is examined based on its individual merits.

Some key elements of this measure are:

  • It is prospective, rather than retroactive.
  • In marriages of less than 20 years, the bill states that the total duration of alimony should not be longer than the length of the marriage except in exceptional circumstances.
  • It contains a more reasonable deviation standard.
  • It eliminates the misleading term “permanent alimony,” and replaces it with open durational alimony.
  • It allows a petition to modify an alimony award after 90 days based on a loss of employment or income
  • It addresses retirement issues, creating a rebuttable presumption for alimony to terminate at a certain point while also establishing a number of factors for judges to consider in evaluating modification or termination requests related to retirement.
  • It provides factors to determine cohabitation and permits the suspension or termination of alimony based on those factors.
  • It retains judicial discretion in most instances, while providing specific guidance only for alimony awards in marriages of less than 20 years and requires judges who deviate from that to provide a written explanation.

Resources

Ed Murray - "A fair approach to alimony: Editorial" - The Star-Ledger 
David Gialanella
- "State Bar Fights Proposal To Base Alimony on Duration of Marriage" - New Jersey Law Journal
Brian Schwartz
- "Cross-Examination: Straight talk about alimony reform" - New Jersey Law Journal
Deborah S. Chames
 - "Alimony Reform Laws Focus on the Exception to the Rule and to the Detriment of the American Family" - The Huffington Post

Paris P. Eliades - "COMMENTARY: Alimony reform merits careful, thorough study" - Courier Post

Susan K. Livio - "Jersey's women get 79 cents to men's $1 - Earnings gap worse for more educated" - Star-Ledger

Brian Schwartz - "New Jersey’s alimony laws do not require significant reform"

Testimonials: 

Read testimonials of two women who discuss why alimony is essential and why it is critical that individual consideration be given to the circumstances of each family during a split. 

The NJSBA's proposed resolution opposing the alimony legislation

Resolution of the Camden County Bar Association opposing A-845 AND S-488 OF THE 216TH Legislature

 

Resolution of the Salem County Bar Association opposing A-845 and S-488 of the 216th Legislature

 

Resolution of the Sussex County Bar Association opposing A-845 and S-488 of the 216th Legislature

 

Resolution of the Hudson County Bar Association opposing A-845 and S-488 in the 216th Legislature

 

Coalition On Alimony Legislation

These groups oppose A-845 (Mainor)/S-488 (Cunningham) which would revise alimony laws, including eliminating permanent alimony and establishing guidelines for amount and duration of alimony awards and support AJR-32 (Singleton/Kean) and SJR-11 (Weinberg/Singer) which would create an unbiased alimony study commission. This coalition is over 150,000 people strong, with less than one of the members being attorneys, and includes attorneys who represent those who receive alimony and those who pay it, alimony recipients and many more. 

New Jersey State Bar Association
Board of Trustees
Family Law Section
Women in the Profession Section
Judicial Administration Committee

Statewide Lawyer Organizations
American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers of NJ
Association of Black Women Lawyers of NJ
Garden State Bar Association
Matrimonial Lawyer Alliance of NJ
New Jersey Association for Justice
New Jersey Hispanic Bar Association
New Jersey Women Lawyers Association

Statewide Non-Lawyer Organizations
Garden State Equality
National Organization of Women of NJ
New Jersey Coalition for Battered Women
New Jersey Displaced Homemakers Network

County Bar Associations
Atlantic County Bar Association
Bergen County Bar Association
Burlington County Bar Association
Camden County Bar Association
Essex County Bar Association
Gloucester County Bar Association
Hudson County Bar Association
Mercer County Bar Association
Middlesex County Bar Association
Morris County Bar Association
Ocean County Bar Association
Passaic County Bar Association
Salem County Bar Association
Somerset County Bar Association
Sussex County Bar Association