Questions About the Changes to New Jersey Alimony Law
New laws or changes to the law are rarely retroactive—which means that usually they only apply to cases which are new or are not completed when the law is signed or the opinion is published. There are a number of reasons for this, mostly having to do with the Constitution and legal due process and other issues that are only interesting to lawyers and political scientists, and which I therefore will not get into. As a practical matter for our clients, what that means is that changes to the law may, but do not automatically, apply to one’s individual legal issue.
We at the Law Offices of Lynda Hinkle are hearing a lot from clients about the new alimony law (which we have discussed at length here) and how it does or does not affect them. Let’s look at some strictly hypothetical examples of how the new alimony law does or does not change a situation:
Example 1: The parties were married for less than twenty years. Party A was awarded permanent alimony at the time of the divorce. Party B is not of retirement age. Party B would now like Party A’s alimony to be terminated under the new law because Party B has now been paying alimony to Party A for a longer period than the length of their marriage. Can Party B rely on the new law?
Answer: While Party B is certainly free to file for a termination or reduction of alimony based on changed circumstances if Party B’s situation has worsened or Party A’s circumstances have improved, the new law will not be applied to this case because the divorce was final and alimony was awarded many years ago. The new law’s general provision that (absent exceptional circumstances) alimony should not last longer than the length of the marriage for a marriage that lasted less than 20 years is not retroactive, meaning it doesn’t apply to alimony obligations that already exist.
Example 2: Party A and Party B filed for divorce in June of 2014. Alimony will be an issue. A Final Judgment of Divorce has not yet been entered. Will the new law be applied or will the law that was in place when they filed be applied?
Answer: While the parties filed for divorce before the new alimony law was signed, their divorce is not yet final. Therefore, if a judge makes a determination as to the alimony issue it will be in accordance with the new law, not the old one, because their divorce was ongoing when the law changed and therefore the new law is not retroactive to their case.
Example 3: Party A and Party B were divorced many years ago. Party A was awarded permanent alimony. Party B is about to retire and go on social security. Does the new law apply?
Answer: The new law does allow people with existing alimony obligations to file for a reduction or termination of alimony when they reach full retirement age. While people have filed for a modification or termination of alimony based on retirement for many years under a changed circumstances rationale, the new law explicitly allows for this kind of filing.
Have a question about your specific situation and whether you might qualify for some relief from your existing obligation? Concerned that your former spouse has stopped or will stop paying alimony based on a mistaken reliance on the new alimony law? Considering filing for divorce or in the process of getting divorced? Call us at 856-227-7888 or email [email protected] for a free 30 minute consultation.