Alimony reform activists are urging New Jersey lawmakers to pass a bill which would eliminate permanent alimony and establish guidelines for the amount and duration of awards.

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Those in favor of the legislation cite a new Rutgers-Eagleton poll in which nearly two-thirds of all New Jersey adults said the most important purpose of alimony is to provide support until the former spouse becomes financially independent.

Overall, 75 percent of respondents disagreed with a recent court ruling that found a supported spouse, in a marriage lasting 15 years or longer, must be paid alimony for life. More men than women opposed that decision, 79 to 67 percent.

"People believe the imposition of lifetime alimony, the way that it currently is done in New Jersey, is simply wrong," said Tom Leustek, president of New Jersey Alimony Reform. "Whether you're a man or a woman, your sense of what is fair and reasonable is the same."

One-third of all New Jersey adults said permanent alimony should end, while 11 percent said it should continue as is. Just 24 percent of older adults (age 65 and over) thought permanent alimony should end as compared to younger adults (ages 18 to 29).

"We welcome the results of the Rutgers-Eagleton poll which supports an end to the presumption of permanent alimony in New Jersey," said Leustek. "The poll results paint a clear picture of how New Jersey residents view the broken alimony system in our state."

About half of all New Jersey adults surveyed said an alimony payment should be an amount that provides for basic needs, while one-third said it should be set so that both parties may maintain the same standard of living even if lower than before their divorce. Just eight percent said the same standard of living shared during the marriage should be the basis for alimony, regardless if the payer can maintain the level.

Those who oppose the alimony reform legislation say they are worried that eliminating lifetime alimony might limit a judge's discretion.