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Can you reduce or end payments under the Alimony Reform Act?

In 2014, Governor Chris Christie signed the Alimony Reform Act, and most advocates for change felt that it moved the old New Jersey alimony laws in the right direction. Others worried that it would take years of litigating cases to properly interpret the statute.

Some of the provisions seem clear enough, however. Four of the provisions speak to the most common circumstances involving alimony payments: permanent alimony, length of marriage, loss of income and cohabitation.

Permanent alimony is gone

The new law eliminates “permanent” alimony. You can apply to modify or end your payments when you reach the federal retirement age of 67, unless a judge orders otherwise.

The 20-year maximum

For marriages of under 20 years, the length of time for making alimony payments cannot exceed the length of the marriage. For example, if you were married for nine years, you will not be required to make more than nine years of alimony payments.

Easier job-loss payment reduction

Under the old system, a judge would usually not agree to your reducing your alimony payments unless you were out of work for a year. Under the new law, you only have to be out of work for 90 days to be eligible for a payment reduction request. However, the court will first need proof of your unemployment woes in various forms.

New rules about cohabitation

Under the old law, alimony payments were to end once the recipient moved in with someone else, whether or not they married. The meaning of cohabitation has changed with the new law. Now the parties do not have to live under the same roof, but they must have a mutually supportive relationship that the payer can prove, at which time alimony can undergo a suspension or permanent termination.

Helping payers

The new law mostly serves those who have not yet entered the alimony arena, but it does offer relief to older people, like those about to reach retirement age who are currently making payments to former spouses. In general, the act makes modification easier, and in so doing, favors the payer over the payee.

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