Divorce Myth #6* – The recent changes to the law eliminated permanent alimony
It is true that the recent statutory changes eliminate the term and concept of "permanent alimony." However, to address long term relationships under certain circumstances, the concept of "permanent alimony" was replaced with the term "open durational alimony." So, why the term has eliminated, the concept of long term alimony exposure still remains.
In addition, the revised statute creates specific standards to utilize in circumstances of retirement, loss of employment and cohabitation, all of which are concepts that the courts have been grappling with for years. Importantly, the statutory changes are only being applied to current cases and is not being applied retroactively. In other words, if you are already under a permanent alimony obligation you are not permitted to now make an application to change this application because of the statutory change.
The revised statute now provides as follows: "For any marriage or civil union less than 20 years in duration, the total duration of alimony shall not, except in exceptional circumstances, exceed the length of the marriage or civil union." So, what does this mean?
First, if you have been married for less than 20 years than you can anticipate not paying alimony for a period of time greater than the length of the marriage unless you fall under the "exceptional circumstances" category. There is still no formula to determine either the amount or length of the alimony obligation. In reaching its decision, the court still must analyze and weigh the fourteen statutory factors, as well as some additional considerations that were inserted as part of the statutory change. As to what constitutes "exceptional circumstances," the statute now contains an additional set of eight factors that the court will review.
Second, the statute provides does not provide a similar standard for marriages greater than 20 years in length. Even with these cases there is still no formula to determine either the amount or length of the alimony obligation. In reaching its decision, the court still must analyze and weigh the fourteen statutory factors. But, there is no requirement that one shows "exceptional circumstances." As a result, it stands to reason that marriages over 20 years in length will fall under open durational alimony.
If you have started the divorce process or are contemplating a divorce, it is important that you take into consideration the specific impact of the statutory changes, especially for marriages of longer duration.
*This is the sixth article in a ten part series exploring the most common myths concerning divorce law in New Jersey.
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