Senator Sean Kean (R-Monmouth) plans to submit legislation that will establish a panel to study reforming New Jersey’s alimony laws in the upcoming legislative session. The Senator said that the current statutes regarding spousal maintenance payments as a result of divorce are overly broad.
“As an attorney, I believe existing law does not set adequate limits on the length and amount of alimony payments or provide for adjustments as a result of changed life circumstances for the payer,” said Kean. “An individual divorced thirty years prior could still be required to make payments to his or her spouse while in retirement, irrespective of changes in his or her income or other life events.”
Under New Jersey law, a judge can award lifetime alimony in a divorce judgment for marriages lasting as few as 10 years, with no provision for adjustments to the award in the event that the spouse required to make payments loses employment or earnings, or is faced with a financially burdensome medical condition.
Senator Kean is working in conjunction with Tom Leustek of New Jersey Alimony Reform (www.njalimonyreform.org), an advocacy group committed to making alimony laws fair to both spouses involved in a divorce proceeding.
“Divorce should mark the end of a failed marriage and the start of independent lives, not a new relationship based on limitless and unconditional payments to one ex-spouse accompanied by acrimony and endless court proceedings” says Tom Leustek of New Jersey Alimony Reform. “Alimony should serve as a transitional aid for both men and women – so that both parties may live free, pursue happiness, and lead dignified lives as productive members of society.”
Senator Kean noted that child support is an issue apart from alimony and would not be the subject of the blue ribbon panel’s investigation or resulting legislation.
“Clearly, alimony may be an appropriate financial payment as part of a divorce decree, but there needs to be common sense limits to what is a highly onerous judgment for the party responsible for paying,” Kean continued. “I think New Jersey would do well to take a page from states like Texas, Florida, and Massachusetts that have passed or are currently considering laws that establish alimony as a limited transition for one spouse to financially stabilize and improve earnings potential that was lost as part of his or her marriage.” TLS.