On September 10, 2014 the governor signed the new alimony bill into law. It is effective immediately and makes several changes to our prior alimony laws.
1. Permanent alimony was eliminated and replaced with open durational alimony.
2. In marriages of less than twenty years, alimony cannot be paid for a term longer than the marriage (except in exceptional circumstances).
3. Alimony may be modified upon the prospective retirement of the payor. In the past, only the actual retirement was considered.
4. When the payor reaches full retirement age, alimony is presumed to end, unless good cause not to end alimony is proven by the recipient.
5. A payor who wants to retire early must prove that the early retirement is reasonable and in good faith (e.g., not just to financially harm the recipient).
6. Full retirement age is defined as the age at which a person may receive full Social Security retirement benefits.
7. A comprehensive list of ten factors must be considered by the court when a non-self-employed person asks to modify his/her alimony obligation due to changed circumstances.
8. No request can be filed with the court until the period of unemployment and the inability to attain gainful employment exceeds 90 days.
9. A separate set of factors must be considered when a self-employed party asks for a modification.
10. Alimony may be suspended or terminated if the recipient cohabits with another person in “… a mutually supportive, intimate personal relationship in which the couple has undertaken duties and privileges that are commonly associated with marriage…”
11. Living together on a fulltime basis is not an essential element of cohabitation. In fact, the court is prohibited from finding that a couple is not cohabitating just because they don’t live together on a fulltime basis!
This new statute turns alimony law on its head. It affects couples who are getting divorced now, couples who will get divorced in the future, people presently paying alimony and people presently receiving alimony. How it affects each will ultimately depend on the facts of each case. What is clear is that nearly every case involving alimony will be affected.
Peter C. Paras is a shareholder in the Family Law Firm of Paras, Apy & Reiss, P.C..
The information in this article is not intended as legal advice. For legal advice you should consult your attorney.