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New Jersey considers abolishing lifetime spousal support

In New Jersey there are three types of spousal support: rehabilitative, limited duration and lifetime. With rehabilitative alimony, payments to the receiving individual stop once the terms of the alimony order are met. For example, those payments may cease when the receiving party obtains employment or otherwise becomes self-supporting.

With limited duration alimony, the key factor is how long the paying individual is ordered to pay. Once that period has passed, payments cease.

And then there is lifetime alimony, which is far more controversial than the other two. Lifetime alimony continues until death or until the receiving spouse remarries or enters a civil union.

These days lifetime alimony is a heated point of discussion in the New Jersey legislature. One proposed bill would allow for modification of lifetime alimony payments, depending on changes in the paying spouse's financial situation.

Another proposed bill would do away with permanent alimony altogether.

Legislators face some difficult choices. Right now New Jersey courts supervise alimony payments to roughly 22,000 ex-spouses, and there is an unknown number of people who receive spousal support in accordance with out-of-court settlements. Sometimes paying spouses lose their jobs and can't pay, and judges often aren't willing to grant a modification.

In any case, it is a good idea to have a legal advocate on your side. Whether you are trying to enforce a court order or modify one, it is best not to face the situation alone.

As for changes to New Jersey's alimony laws, we'll have to wait and see. Similar changes were proposed in Florida, where permanent alimony is also in effect, but the governor there vetoed the bill after it was approved by the state legislature. The reason for the veto was that the bill would have affected already established alimony arrangements, so that is also a matter the New Jersey legislators will have to address.

Source: Bloomberg, "Jail Becomes Home for Husband Stuck With Lifetime Alimony," Sophia Pearson, Aug. 26, 2013

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