Misperceptions in the Alimony Reform Battle in New Jersey

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GoalsThe fight to end permanent alimony in New Jersey may be creating some false impressions about current reality. Although permanent alimony was common when many women exiting long marriages had never been in the workplace, times have changed. Not only do few divorcing spouses today qualify for permanent alimony, but some of those who do qualify are men. The definition of a long marriage has also changed. New Jersey courts once used 10 years as the benchmark, but permanent alimony after a marriage of 10 years is now quite rare. How long is long? There is no bright line, and the question is, should there be? Alimony decisions are very fact-specific and the length of a marriage is only one factor. Spouses who have the ability to work after a marriage of any length are expected to do so to contribute to their own support.

What does “permanent” really mean?

Under current New Jersey alimony law, an order for “permanent alimony” does not prevent the paying spouse from seeking a modification if there is a substantial change in either the dependent spouse’s need or the paying spouse’s ability to pay. The alimony reform bill that went to the Senate Judiciary Committee on May 13, 2013 (A3909/S2750) places limits on the duration of alimony based on the length of a marriage, but allows courts to deviate from the limits “in the interests of justice,” and to award alimony for an “indefinite” length of time after a marriage or civil union longer than 20 years. Is indefinite really that different from permanent but modifiable? Are the recommended time limits helpful, or are they arbitrary?

New Jersey law also provides for other types of spousal support when permanent alimony is not appropriate. For examples of how various types of alimony awards may apply in real life, Weinberger Law Group of New Jersey has put together some alimony case studies.

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Bari Weinberger

About Bari Weinberger

Bari Zell Weinberger was awarded a Juris Doctorate in 1997 from Suffolk University Law School, and has dedicated her practice exclusively to the fields of family and matrimonial law since her graduation. She served as a judicial law clerk for the Honorable Roger W. Daley, J.S.C. in the Middlesex County Family Part upon receiving her law degree. Bari Z. Weinberger is Certified by the Supreme Court of New Jersey as a Matrimonial Law Attorney, a certification achieved by only 2% of the attorneys in New Jersey. Ms. Weinberger is the Associate Author of the New Jersey Family Law Practice, 14th Ed., 2010, a 5-volume treatise utilized by virtually every family law judge and practitioner in the State of NJ and is published by the New Jersey Institute for Continuing Legal Education. She has also served in this capacity on prior editions as well. She is presently working as the Associate Author of the 15th Ed., which is scheduled to go to print in 2012. Ms. Weinberger has authored numerous articles, many of which are included in this website for your review and education, and she lectures on various divorce-related topics.