UPDATE: Alimony Reform Bill Passes New Jersey Assembly

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Matt Rooney

Matt Rooney

is a New Jersey attorney, former Superior Court law clerk, and noted commentator who focuses his practice on family law, municipal court defense, and personal injury matters. He was recognized by SJ Magazine as a 2018 “Top Divorce & Family Attorney."
Assemblyman Sean Kean (R-Monmouth and Ocean) wants to review and reform New Jersey’s alimony laws.

Legislation would establish Blue Ribbon Commission to review New Jersey’s alimony laws and suggest changes

Back in December, then-New Jersey State Senator Sean Kean, a Republican from the 11th Legislative District (Monmouth), announced his intention to introduce legislation establishing a “Blue Ribbon” panel to study New Jersey’s alimony laws and suggest changes.
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Kean’s efforts are part of a larger national movement that has received extra attention due to the down economy. Last fall, Massachusetts adopted alimony an alimony reform law (1) limiting alimony payments depending uipon the length of the marriage, and (2) suspending payments upon remarriage, and (3) terminating or reducing alimony when the recipient cohabitates with a new partner for a period of three three or more months.
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What remains to be seen is how such reforms would actually effect New Jersey divorce litigants. For example, cohabitation post-divorce is already a grounds for terminating alimony in New Jersey. The payor spouse must set forth a “prima facie” case of cohabitation in order to earn the right to the exchange of discovery and, afterwards, a formal plenary hearing to modify his or her obligation. If the supporting spouse proves cohabitation, then all he or she need demonstrate next is that the supported spouse is engaged in a marital-type relationship with the cohabitating individual. The only difference between New Jersey and a “reform” state like Massachusetts? New Jersey’s cohabitation standard is a matter of legal precedence, not codified via statute.
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Alimony LawyersAt DeMichele and DeMichele, we will continue to provide updates as Assemblyman Kean’s reform efforts progress or arrest in the coming weeks and months. A companion bill — S-34 (text) — is currently working its way through the procedural framework of New Jersey’s State Senate. If it passes, Governor Chris Christie will have to either sign the legislation into law or veto it. If the blue ribbon panel is established, we’ll pay close attention to any recommendations made to the legislature.
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Alimony represents either a huge financial burden (or boon) for divorced New Jerseyan especially in these trying economic times. It’s an issue which you can’t take lightly whether you’re paying or receiving. If you or a loved one have questions regarding alimony, the enforcement of alimony orders, modification of alimony orders or divorce-related issues generally, please contact us online today or call us at (856) 546-1350 to schedule a consultation with one of our experienced New Jersey alimony attorneys.
The full text of Senator Kean’s press release is below:
KEAN-SPONSORED BILL CREATING BLUE RIBBON COMMISSION ON ALIMONY PASSES COMMITTEE

Legislation sponsored by Assemblyman Sean Kean, R-Monmouth and Ocean, that would create an 11-member Blue Ribbon Commission to review New Jersey’s alimony law and propose avenues of reform, was approved by the Assembly Judiciary Committee on Monday.

Kean, a practicing attorney, is a longtime advocate for reforming alimony laws. In February, he sponsored related legislation, A-685, that provides for modification of child support and certain alimony payments due to changed circumstances.  That bill was also approved by the same committee.

“Establishing a commission that is focused on studying alimony laws and making practical recommendations is the most effective way to reform an antiquated system,” said Kean. “While there are guidelines for courts to consider in determining alimony, there is not a specific formula for a family court to use in its calculation. Alimony should help a person as they transition to self-sustaining employment. It should not be a lifetime financial obligation on the individual making payments.

“Society has changed quite a bit since the alimony laws were written,” continued Kean. “Changes in lifestyle, earning power and employment status are factors that need to be examined and updated when determining if, and how much a settlement should be. There are too many stories of spouses who have been financially crippled or jailed because their circumstances have changed. The law needs to be brought up to date.”

Within nine months of organizing, the commission will issue a report to the governor and to the Legislature detailing its findings and recommendations, including any proposed legislation.  The Blue Ribbon Commission will review the scope of State alimony laws as compared with those in other states, trends in alimony awards, and whether current economic conditions have affected trends in State alimony awards.

 

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Matt Rooney

Matt Rooney

is a New Jersey attorney, former Superior Court law clerk, and noted commentator who focuses his practice on family law, municipal court defense, and personal injury matters. He was recognized by SJ Magazine as a 2018 “Top Divorce & Family Attorney."
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