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New Jersey Takes Steps to Reform Alimony Law

In June, 2012, the New Jersey State Assembly passed a bill creating a study commission to look at all aspects of alimony law in New Jersey and provide a report back to the legislators and the governor. The bill is not yet law, as the New Jersey Senate has yet to approve their version of the bill.

Alimony reform is very controversial, with emotions running high on both sides: those in favor of major reforms, and those in favor of maintaining the status quo.

It's been 17 years since the last formal review of New Jersey's laws on alimony, and it's been 37 years since there were any major changes in the law.

Those in favor of reform, such as the non-profit organization New Jersey Alimony Reform, argue that New Jersey's alimony laws are "oppressive." Some of the issues those favoring reform cite include:

  • Under current laws, someone married as little as ten years can be forced to pay alimony for life. How is it fair that someone should pay 50 years of alimony for a ten year marriage?
  • Alimony should provide "support" for a transition to a normal life. Instead current laws often result in a situation where the person receiving alimony has no incentive work or marry again.
  • New Jersey's alimony laws were mostly written in the 1940s and 1950s. The world has changed tremendously since then. In those days most married women were "stay-at-home moms" with few career opportunities. Today half the work force is composed of women, and they enjoy the same career opportunities that men enjoy.
  • Eliminating "gender bias" in the alimony laws in the 1970s was just a "fig leaf." The laws were originally written on an assumption that divorced women are not capable of supporting themselves. The fact that a few men now collect alimony does not change this.

Those opposed to reforming New Jersey's alimony laws, such as Patrick Judge, Jr., chairman of the family law section of the New Jersey State Bar Association, claim that attempts to reform alimony law in New Jersey are a battle against women and "their ability to provide for themselves and their children following a divorce."

In a guest blog post on NJ.COM, Judge argues that many of the proposals aren't fair. He cites as examples proposed legislation that would replace judicial discretion with formulas, that would prevent judges from taking into consideration special circumstances. He also says it's unreasonable to exclude a wide range of assets when considering income for support purposes.

Judge also claims that society would bear the cost of changes to the alimony system, as more women would end up on welfare and other forms of public support.

If you have questions about alimony or other family law issues in New Jersey, contact a New Jersey family law attorney at the Law Offices of Greenberg, Walden & Grossman, LLC.

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