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New Alimony Law A "Gamechanger" for Divorces

courtt.jpgA divorce can be a long and messy process. Unfortunately, with the possibility of a spouse paying alimony, he or she could be connected with an ex-spouse for decades to come after a divorce.

If you find yourself on the "giving end" of alimony payments, then the alimony reform bill that was signed into law in 2014 could be your new best friend. But it's important to keep in mind that most of the new law only applies to couples who were divorced after September 10, 2014. It does not affect obligations made prior to that date.

The law ends the concept of permanent alimony. The term "permanent alimony" was replaced with "open durational alimony." Now, ex-spouses making the payments can apply to have them end or be modified when they reach the federal retirement age of 67, unless a judge says otherwise. Also, if the marriage lasted fewer than 20 years, alimony payments cannot exceed the length of the marriage, unless a judge decides that there are "exceptional circumstances." So if you're on the receiving end of alimony, you must make sure to find other ways to secure your future, because alimony will not always be there.

Under the reform law, you can ask the court to lower alimony payments if you're unemployed for longer than 90 days. But the court doesn't have to honor this request. A judge will take into account a spouse or ex-spouse's documented efforts to get replacement employment or pursue an alternative occupation after a job loss - and whether there's been a good faith effort to find paid employment at any level and in any field.

Finally, before the new law, alimony payments were supposed to end once the "receiving spouse" began living with a new partner, even if they're weren't married. But people could avoid that law by renting cheap housing while actually with their new partners. Under the new law, it's no longer necessary for the ex-spouse and the new partner to be living together for them to be considered cohabiting. A judge now will consider multiple factors to determine whether a spouse or ex-spouse is cohabitating.

These are all important things to be considered by both divorcing spouses when alimony is at stake, that could affect their lives for good or bad after their separation is finalized. Omar Bareentto is a 2016 Rutgers School of Law graduate and a former contributor to the Rutgers Business Law Review. He collaborated with me on this blog.


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