by John S. Eory, Esq.
In my previous article published on January 7, 2015, I discussed New Jersey’s new alimony law that was enacted on September 10, 2014, and provided an explanation of the new law concerning how alimony awards are determined and when they are subject to modification or termination.
This article will now discuss other provisions of the statute dealing with the impact of an alimony obligor’s retirement or loss of employment and an alimony recipient’s cohabitation with an unrelated person outside of marriage.
Retirement. One of the major changes in the new law concerns how Courts shall address an obligor’s retirement from the workforce. In a departure from prior law, the statute creates a presumption in favor of terminating alimony once the obligor has reached full Social Security retirement age. This presumption can be overcome if the recipient is able to prove that alimony should continue based on specific factors. If the Court finds good cause to overcome the presumption it must then apply the alimony factors discussed in my previous article to determine whether alimony should continue, be modified or be terminated.
Importantly, the above presumption only applies to alimony awards after September 10, 2014. A person who has an alimony obligation which predates the new law must demonstrate that his/her retirement is in good faith. The Court will then look at whether the recipient had an opportunity to save her retirement and apply specified factors to determine whether the obligor has demonstrated that modification or termination of alimony is appropriate
Unemployment or Loss of Income. Under previous law, alimony obligors often had to resort to litigation simply to prove that their unemployment was not temporary. The new statute specifies that ninety days of involuntary unemployment is sufficient to give the Court authority to terminate or modify alimony. A Court has discretion to award either a permanent or temporary modification pending continued efforts by the obligor to regain employment. Self-employed persons must present a business analysis comparing current economic and non-economic benefits to benefits which existed at the time alimony was originally ordered.
Cohabitation. Consistent with prior law, alimony may be suspended or terminated if the recipient cohabits with another person in a marriage-like relationship. The new law states, however, that cohabitation does not necessarily require a common household. Thus, a person can prove cohabitation by demonstrating intertwined finances, shared responsibility for living expenses, and recognition of the relationship in the couples’ social and family circle.
The duration of the relationship remains an important feature. While no minimum length is specified, Courts recognize that cohabitation relationships may be less stable than marriages, particularly in the early stages. Allowing Courts the discretion to suspend rather than terminate alimony takes this aspect into account.
Conclusion. Alimony law in New Jersey remains complicated substantively and procedurally. Anyone facing the prospect of alimony, whether as an obligor or recipient, or seeking to modify alimony is well-advised to consult with an attorney before determining how to proceed.
John Eory is the Co-Chair of Stark & Stark’s Divorce Group in the Lawrenceville, New Jersey office. For questions, please contact Mr. Eory: firstname.lastname@example.org.