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New Jersey Considers Changing Alimony Laws

Arguing that New Jersey’s alimony laws are “antiquated” and unfair, activists in the state are lobbying for reform. One of the largest alimony reform advocacy groups, New Jersey Alimony Reform, is working with state lawmakers to amend the laws governing alimony awards. Reformers hope to impose limits on the amount and duration of alimony payments.

Reasons for Change

Those pushing for alimony reform claim that the state’s law are outdated, and based on a model where few women worked outside the home. They argue that “unlimited discretion” that a judge has in awarding alimony often results in grave injustices. A judge can award lifetime alimony to a spouse in marriages lasting only ten years. Reformers argue that the unpredictability is one of the major problems with the state’s alimony laws and that people should have a clearer idea of what the award will be and how long it will last from the outset.

Activists also point to the difficulty that people have in obtaining alimony modifications as evidence of the need for change. Reformers cite anecdotal evidence of people whose incomes decreased by more than half who were not able to get downward modifications for alimony payments, leading to bankruptcy and foreclosure because of the burden of alimony payments.

Reformers also point out that when deciding alimony awards, judges do not take fault for dissolution of the marriage because of one spouse’s financial irresponsibility, credit card spending or unwillingness to work.

Goals of the Proposed Changes

New Jersey lawmakers are considering bills that would set up a blue ribbon commission to study the issue. Reformers stress that they do not want to eliminate alimony entirely, but only seek to have stricter guidelines on awards limiting how much people pay and for how long. They want it more difficult to obtain lifetime alimony payments and instead have judges award alimony as a transitional tool to economic independence.

Consult an Attorney

Economic issues are often a serious point of contention in a divorce – already emotionally-charged situation. Outcomes in such cases can vary widely based on the facts of individual families’ situations. If you are considering divorce contact an experienced divorce lawyer who can discuss your situation with you and advise you of your options.

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