I am about to retire. Can I stop making alimony payments to my former spouse based on New Jersey’s 2014 alimony reform law?
Since the Alimony Reform Act of 2014 was signed into law last September, New Jersey residents whose marriage lasted fewer than 20 years generally may not be required to pay alimony for more years than the couple was married, absent certain special circumstances. This durational cap only applies to couples who received a final judgment of divorce after the reform law was signed by the governor. For couples who ended their marriage prior to this, there must be a legitimate reason, such as retirement, cohabitation, or loss of a job, before a New Jersey court will modify an alimony award. In addition, a court may not alter an alimony order if the couple’s divorce judgment addressed such issues in advance.
Under the new law, an alimony payer who reaches the full retirement age described in the Social Security Act may be eligible to modify or end his or her alimony obligation as long as the payer actually retires and the former couple’s final judgment of divorce does not prohibit alimony termination based on retirement. Unlike in the past, the law now states a family court judge must assume the alimony payer retired in good faith regardless of his or her ability to continue working. After that, the burden of demonstrating why alimony payments should not cease based on the payer’s retirement shifts to the alimony payee.
A New Jersey judge may now examine whether the alimony recipient should have made efforts to save for his or her own retirement when considering a request to modify or terminate an award due to a payer’s retirement. Also, the alimony reform law provides that neither former spouse has a greater right to maintain the same lifestyle the couple enjoyed during the marriage. Regardless, a family court is required to issue written findings of fact and conclusions of law for each application to modify or terminate an alimony award pursuant to provisions included in the 2014 law.
Interestingly, the new alimony statute presents a situation where an alimony payer could now seek to modify or terminate his or her payment obligation in advance of a planned or impending retirement, instead of waiting until the retirement has actually occurred before filing the application, and may suffer an uncertain result which, by that time, may be too late to undo, causing severe economic hardship. Although the payer’s obligation will not typically change until the date on which his or her retirement actually occurs, the payer may use this provision of the new law to plan ahead more effectively.
Although the Alimony Reform Act of 2014 added several important provisions designed to make terminating or modifying alimony at retirement more fair in New Jersey, a court proceeding is required in order to do so if the parties do not amicably agree to the termination of the payer’s alimony obligation . Still, the new law may encourage alimony payees to enter into a compromise agreement with their former spouse rather than risk a court determining the final outcome of such an important matter.
If you have questions about modifying or terminating your alimony obligation, the diligent family lawyers at Goldstein Law Group may be able to help. To discuss your situation with a dedicated family law advocate today, call Goldstein Law Group at 732-967-6777 or contact us through our website.
More Blog Posts:
How is my Child Support Obligation Calculated in New Jersey?, April 28, 2015, New Jersey Divorce Lawyers Blog
Will I be Required to Pay Spousal Support (ALIMONY) After My New Jersey Divorce?, April 27, 2015, New Jersey Divorce Lawyers Blog