Earlier this year New Jersey’s alimony law underwent massive changes substantially altering long-term payments, among other things, mirroring a trend showing up in states across the nation. Not only can divorce be emotionally and financially exhausting, but because aspects of it are state-specific, it is imperative to speak to an experienced New York City divorce attorney before going through with the process.
Approximately 22,000 New Jersey ex-spouses received alimony under court supervision last year; more than half also received child support. One of the reasons behind the change in the law was the shift in dynamics of the average American household, in which almost 60 percent of married couples with minor children are dual-income. Below are some aspects of the changes in the law:
- No more “permanent alimony” – one of the changes made by the modification in the law includes the elimination of permanent alimony, restricting it to marriages of 20 years or more. Marriages under 20 years are allowed alimony, but not for longer than the length of the marriage. Similarly, the amended law allows the person paying alimony to modify or terminate via an alternative to litigation.
- It is not retroactive – a majority of the law affects divorces going forward and, as such, does not affect the contractual obligations of those already paying alimony to a former spouse. There is a stipulation, however, that can be used to request to end lifetime alimony upon retirement.
- New relationship guidelines are stricter – the previous law required alimony payments to end once the receiving former spouse began living with a new partner, whether or not they were married. It was not uncommon for former spouses to be in a relationship but conveniently live in a small studio in order to keep receiving alimony. The guidelines under the new law leave less room for abuse.
- Unemployed spouses paying alimony can reduce payments more easily – under the new law a down-and-out spouse who is unemployed for three months can request the court lower payments. Previously, although expressly stated, a spouse could request reduction of alimony payments but often a judge would require unemployment for at least a year before granting the request.
Protecting Yourself is Important
In light of the recent changes in the New Jersey alimony law, protecting assets is even more important than it was before. While not the most romantic approach to a new marriage, prenuptial agreements are vital since divorces are becoming more commonplace. Although the governing law provides some basic protection for spouses, these rules may or may not be what the couple intends – a prenuptial agreement can anticipate future assets and liabilities and outline a plan for distribution should divorce occur.
Couples getting married or facing divorce should contact an experienced New York City divorce attorney to learn about rights and obligations that come with a marital relationship. The attorneys at the offices of Alatsas Law Firm have years of experience in family law and guide clients every step of the way. Call (718)-233-2903 today to schedule your initial consultation.