What the changes to alimony laws mean for New Jersey couples

We are living in a time where families and relationships look very different than they did a generation, or even a decade, ago. The concepts or ideals that may have been traditional back then have gone through some fairly dramatic changes. For example, divorce is no longer considered to be a taboo subject; same-sex marriage is rapidly gaining acceptance across the country; and men and women are no longer expected to comply with stereotypical gender roles.

As striking as these changes may be, the fact is that the laws protecting these new families have yet to catch up. However, there are changes being made all the time to update family laws to better reflect and acknowledge modern families. For example, an outdated alimony rule in New Jersey was recently changed, and this could mean some significant changes for divorcing couples across the state.

Previous alimony laws were put into place during a time when men typically served as breadwinners and women commonly gave up career ambitions to stay at home and raise a family. Because of this financial dependence, the law allowed for very lengthy or permanent alimony payment orders.

The recent changes to the law address this by ending “permanent” alimony and setting time limits on how long a person will have to make payments if he or she has been married for less than 20 years. The changes also make it easier for payments to be stopped if the payor spouse retires or loses his or her job.

Advocates of the changes say that they address critical issues with the outdated program and better reflect the needs of modern couples. Critics argue that the system is still quite aggressive and are disappointed that not all changes will apply to people who are already paying alimony.

No matter what side of the debate you may find yourself on, the fact is that these changes will likely have an impact on your case if you are going through a divorce that involves a request for spousal support. Understanding your rights and options — whether you are the person paying or receiving alimony — can be crucial in pursuing a fair and appropriate settlement.

Source: The Wall Street Journal, “New Alimony Rules in New Jersey,” Sophia Hollander, Sept. 10, 2014

About the Author:

Sarah Jacobs is dedicated to protecting the interests of clients in family law proceedings. Certified by the Supreme Court of New Jersey as a Matrimonial Law Attorney, and Qualified as a Mediator, Sarah possesses nearly 20 years of experience practicing law throughout the State of New Jersey. Together with partner Jamie N. Berger, Esq. their boutique Morristown family law firm is managed with the goal of providing high-quality service tailored to each client's individual needs. In her capacity as both a family law mediator and litigator, Sarah works with negotiation-minded clients in a cooperative setting. She is also a skilled litigator with the knowledge needed to take even the most complex cases to court, if necessary.

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