Governor Christie recently signed a bill which modifies New Jersey’s alimony statute. The changes were not as extensive as had been initially proposed but they are significant in certain respects. This article will address the changes which affect the term of alimony. Subsequent posts will address other aspects of the new statute.
The factors which the Court is to consider when determining both the amount and term of alimony have remained relatively unchanged. The marital standard of living remains one of the factors to be considered. However, the Courts are now instructed that, when considering the marital standard of living, neither party is presumed to have a greater entitlement to that standard.
A new, and potentially significant, factor has been added which allows the Court to consider the nature, amount and length of pendente lite (temporary) support paid. This means that, when determining for how long a party should pay alimony, the length of time that he/she has been paying temporary support, is relevant. Therefore, it is the total length of time that one is to pay support that it is considered, not just the time after the divorce is granted. Most courts had not previously considered the length of a temporary support award when determining the term of post-divorce alimony.
The most significant change regarding the term of alimony is that, except for exceptional circumstances, in marriages or civil unions lasting less than 20 years, the total duration of alimony is not to exceed the length of the marriage or civil union. A list of some of the exceptional circumstances includes:
- The age of the parties at the time of the marriage or civil union, and at the time of the award;
- The degree and duration of the dependency of one party on the other during the marriage or civil union;
- Whether a spouse or partner has a chronic illness or unusual health circumstance;
- Whether a spouse or partner has given up a career or a career opportunity or otherwise supported the career of the other spouse or partner;
- Whether a spouse or partner has received a disproportionate share of the marital estate;
- The impact of the marriage or civil union on either party’s ability to become self-supporting, including but not limited to either party’s responsibility as primary caretaker of a child;
- Tax considerations of either party;
- Any other factors or circumstances that the court deems equitable, relevant and material.
The new statute also makes significant changes to the standards which a Court should apply when addressing an application for modification of alimony based on the recipient’s cohabitation. Those changes will be addressed in a subsequent article.
About the author: Steven R. Rubenstein, Esq. is a founding Partner of Meyerson, Fox, Mancinelli & Conte, P.A. in Montvale, New Jersey. Steve’s practice is focused exclusively on divorce and matrimonial matters and he has handled thousands of divorce cases in his forty-one year legal career. In addition, Steve is a certified divorce mediator and is a founding member of the New Jersey Collaborative Law Group.