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Bad News For NJ Residents Facing Alimony Payments

The debate over lifetime alimony rages on in New Jersey and there’s some bad news for those on one side of the argument.

Last week, a New Jersey Appellate Court ruled that permanent alimony must always be awarded for marriages lasting for 15 years or more. Before the ruling, the length of time that qualifies a marriage as long-term wasn’t defined. That was at the court’s discretion.

“So much for discretion,” said Tom Leustek, president of New Jersey Alimony Reform (NJAR). “Now New Jersey’s courts have determined, that if a couple were married at age 20, and remained so for 15 years until they divorced, only permanent alimony can be awarded.”

Several states have changed their alimony laws to encourage divorcing people to split and get on with their lives. In Pennsylvania and New York, alimony typically is ordered from one third to one-half the years of the marriage. In Texas and Kansas there is a 10 year alimony maximum. Massachusetts passed alimony reform legislation in 2011 that placed a cap on the duration of alimony and guaranteed alimony payers the right to end alimony at retirement age.

“If the former spouses live to the average life expectancy of 79 years, alimony will be paid for a duration almost three times longer than the marriage in the first place,” said Leustek in reference to the New Jersey court decision. “This outcome to the end of a marriage is an unjustifiable outrage.”

The latest state to reform its alimony laws is Colorado, where a bill was signed into law in May. Colorado lawmakers placed a cap on the duration of alimony, implemented a formula for calculating the amount of alimony, and guaranteed the right to retire to all alimony payers.

“This is another example of why the New Jersey Legislature needs to step in and decide if Permanent Alimony makes sense in the 21st Century,” said Sheila Taylor, president of New Jersey Women for Alimony Reform (NJWAR). “Unless New Jersey’s harsh and outdated laws are corrected by the State Legislature, it appears judges in the New Jersey family courts will order many decades of debt obligation for having been married to someone for 15 years.”

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