Even many attorneys are unsure as to what impact the New Alimony Laws are going to have on Alimony and Divorce Cases going forward.
The Law is being applied prospectively so that cases filed for the first time after the law’s effective date will be effected as well as older cases where one of the parties seeks modification of an existing alimony obligation should there be no property settlement agreement defining the parameters of a modification. Additionally the court redefines retirement, reduction in income and cohabitation which will be applied to all cases requiring such a determination.
The new law directs that for marriages less than 20 years, the “limited duration” of alimony cannot be for longer than the length of the marriage. (except in exceptional circumstances) If the marriage is 20 years or over, a party is entitled to what is known as “open durational alimony” which may turn out to be similar to the previous “permanent alimony”.
What about these “exceptional circumstances” that could impact on the duration of alimony? The new law provides that certain “exceptional circumstances” may result in a duration of alimony longer than the marriage Age, degree of dependency, illness, career sacrifices, disproportionate share of estate, impact of the marriage on ability of spouse to support himself/herself, tax considerations, or any other factors just and equitable.
The court is also free to consider the nature, amount and length of support payments made during the divorce in rendering an alimony award.
While the new alimony law places limits on the duration of alimony I expect the law to impact permanent alimony cases the most. Most of the temporary alimony cases in the past did not result in durations more than the term of the marriage anyway. And while a court may consider the payor spouses early retirement, full retirement age is now defined as that age which a person is eligible to receive full retirement benefits under section 216 of the Federal Social Security Act, such that it may still prove difficult to retire early and not pay alimony. In fact, the new law allows a party to apply before retirement for a ruling as to whether or not they will still have an alimony obligation should they retire. This provision is a welcomed addition.
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