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New Jersey Residents Argue for Alimony Reform

New Jersey residents recently came out to testify before an Assembly panel on alimony reform.

One woman said that her husband, while he was dying of brain cancer, couldn't persuade a judge to let him stop paying alimony to his employed ex-wife. Another woman said her husband went to jail when he couldn't pay alimony because he was out of work.

New Jersey Assemblyman Charles Mainor (D., Hudson) has sponsored a bill that would set guidelines for alimony, with the length of an award tied to the length of a marriage.

The New Jersey bill is based on a 2011 Massachusetts law and would end alimony payments when the person owing alimony retires. A judge could require continued payments under certain circumstances.

New Jersey does not now have a formula for deciding how long alimony will be paid to a dependent spouse. Ex-spouses who are obligated to pay alimony can petition to end the payment when they retire or otherwise have changed financial circumstances.

Another bill, sponsored by Assemblywoman Pamela Lampitt (D., Camden) and Assemblyman Thomas Giblin (D., Passaic) is backed by the New Jersey Bar Association family law section and the state chapter of the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers. That bill also provides that alimony could be terminated or modified when the ex-spouse paying it retires.

Alimony is awarded in between 20 and 30 percent of New Jersey divorce cases. Permanent alimony awards are rare, as are cases of people going to jail when unable to make alimony payments.

Backers of Mainor's bill say that the bill sponsored by Giblin and Lampitt doesn't provide enough certainty for those paying alimony.

Mainor introduced his bill after being lobbied by a group formed by Rutgers University biology professor Tom Leustek. Leustek was ordered to pay $2,000 per month in alimony to his former wife, who has a doctorate in psychology. Leustek said that the award was based on a "snapshot" of her income at a time when it was low, and failed to look at her income over the course of the couple's 24-year marriage.

If you have questions about divorce, alimony, or other family law issues, co ntact an experienced family law attorney at the New Jersey Law Offices of Greenberg, Walden & Grossman, LLC.

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