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Overhaul ends permanent alimony and makes it easier to reduce payments

In September of last year, New Jersey passed sweeping alimony reform legislation that is expected to have a big impact on family law cases in the state, according to The Record. The legislation brings a number of changes to spousal support in New Jersey, most importantly an end to permanent or lifetime alimony in most cases. The legislation has proven controversial, both for those who supported reform and those who were against it.

What has changed?

Under the new law, alimony payments will be limited to the length of the marriage. A court can only order a spouse to pay alimony for a maximum of 11 years, for example, if the marriage itself lasted 11 years. The law also stipulates that alimony payments end once the payer reaches retirement. However, alimony payments may continue beyond these limits in “exceptional circumstances,” such as when the payee becomes permanently injured during the marriage and is unable to return to the workforce.

The law also makes it easier for payer’s to reduce or terminate alimony in other circumstances. For example, according to NJ Advance Media, if the payee moves in with a new partner then in most cases his or her alimony payments will be terminated. Likewise, people paying alimony who have lost their job can apply to have payments reduced or terminated within 90 days.

Changes controversial

While many agreed that New Jersey’s old alimony laws were outdated, not everybody is happy with the changes. Those who were advocating for reform say the new law does not go far enough. For example, the changes will only apply to divorces filed after the law took effect and not retroactively. They also were hoping for clearer guidelines for how alimony amounts were calculated.

Other critics say that the law, while well-meaning, could have unintended consequences. For example, they say that the stipulation that alimony ends when the payee moves in with a new partner is too strict, especially since moving in with a new partner does not necessarily constitute a change in financial circumstances. Likewise, the rule that alimony ends when the payer reaches retirement-a rule that also applies to divorces filed prior to the law’s passage-could hurt people who divorce later in life.

Family law representation

New Jersey’s alimony reform is a significant step in how courts deal with spousal support and reflects changes that have been occurring across the country. The overhaul also show that when it comes to family law matters, people are still well advised to rely on a professional family law attorney in order to address their specific concerns. Alimony and other family legal issues remain complicated and difficult to understand for somebody without legal experience, but they can have a big impact on many people’s emotional and financial lives. As such, relying on expert advice can help ensure that these serious issues are dealt with in a compassionate and expert manner.

Overhaul ends permanent alimony and makes it easier to reduce payments

In September of last year, New Jersey passed sweeping alimony reform legislation that is expected to have a big impact on family law cases in the state, according to The Record. The legislation brings a number of changes to spousal support in New Jersey, most importantly an end to permanent or lifetime alimony in most cases. The legislation has proven controversial, both for those who supported reform and those who were against it.

What has changed?

Under the new law, alimony payments will be limited to the length of the marriage. A court can only order a spouse to pay alimony for a maximum of 11 years, for example, if the marriage itself lasted 11 years. The law also stipulates that alimony payments end once the payer reaches retirement. However, alimony payments may continue beyond these limits in “exceptional circumstances,” such as when the payee becomes permanently injured during the marriage and is unable to return to the workforce.

The law also makes it easier for payer’s to reduce or terminate alimony in other circumstances. For example, according to NJ Advance Media, if the payee moves in with a new partner then in most cases his or her alimony payments will be terminated. Likewise, people paying alimony who have lost their job can apply to have payments reduced or terminated within 90 days.

Changes controversial

While many agreed that New Jersey’s old alimony laws were outdated, not everybody is happy with the changes. Those who were advocating for reform say the new law does not go far enough. For example, the changes will only apply to divorces filed after the law took effect and not retroactively. They also were hoping for clearer guidelines for how alimony amounts were calculated.

Other critics say that the law, while well-meaning, could have unintended consequences. For example, they say that the stipulation that alimony ends when the payee moves in with a new partner is too strict, especially since moving in with a new partner does not necessarily constitute a change in financial circumstances. Likewise, the rule that alimony ends when the payer reaches retirement-a rule that also applies to divorces filed prior to the law’s passage-could hurt people who divorce later in life.

Family law representation

New Jersey’s alimony reform is a significant step in how courts deal with spousal support and reflects changes that have been occurring across the country. The overhaul also show that when it comes to family law matters, people are still well advised to rely on a professional family law attorney in order to address their specific concerns. Alimony and other family legal issues remain complicated and difficult to understand for somebody without legal experience, but they can have a big impact on many people’s emotional and financial lives. As such, relying on expert advice can help ensure that these serious issues are dealt with in a compassionate and expert manner.

Some people going through a divorce in New Jersey may attempt to hide assets to prevent a spouse from receiving them in the split.

Any divorce in New Jersey presents a myriad of decisions that must be made: perhaps it has to do with how property may be divided or who will have custody of the children. Though the details of each case may differ, there is one constant: each party should be honest in disclosing any information that would be pertinent to making these decisions.

In fact, New Jersey laws require parties to complete and submit a “family case information statement” within a timeframe set by the court. The statement details family information, employment and income.

When it comes to property division, having a complete picture of each spouse’s assets is critical to ensuring the equitable distribution of those assets. Unfortunately, some people attempt to obscure items in an effort to prevent the loss of them. Here are some signs that this may be occurring:

Large purchases

Cash tends to be king, as it has a concrete value and is easily divided. However, cash is easily spent. When one spouse starts making large purchases – such as with expensive artwork, cars or taking big trips – it may be in an effort to prevent the other spouse from getting that cash. In other words, the cash is being converted into physical assets – and the spouse could even attempt to underreport the actual value of those assets.

Another way to minimize the amount of cash available in a divorce is to overpay a credit card or other debt. Perhaps one spouse decides to start putting extra money into the house payment. Sometimes, people create “fake” debts, such as money owed to a friend, in order to “pay off” the debt so the person essentially holds on to the cash until the divorce is final. This should raise a red flag.

Questionable statements

It is always critical to monitor statements from credit card companies and investments. But what happens if those statements suddenly go missing? Or perhaps have unexpected transactions on them? It could indicate that a spouse is trying to keep his or her other half from accessing assets.

People going through a divorce should also keep an eye out for new statements from banks or credit card companies that may be new. While it is not illegal for someone to open a new account during this time, it is essential that they disclose that information during the divorce proceedings.

Underreported income

Even with the financial disclosure statement is submitted, both parties should thoroughly review it for accuracy. Some people may try to underreport what they make. Though a W-2 or other tax form could easily dispute this, it is not always as easy with people who are paid in cash.

Uncovering assets

Fortunately, with a little work, these hidden assets may be uncovered. Experts suggest hiring a forensic accountant or other specialist who can do a deep dive into a couple’s assets. This process may require providing names, addresses and Social Security numbers of family members.

Anyone who has concerns about this issue should speak with a family law attorney in New Jersey.

Section 2A:34-2 of the New Jersey Divorce Statutes outline the different causes of action available for a divorce. New Jersey recognizes no-fault grounds for divorce on the basis of separation or irreconcilable differences. The parties must live separately for at least 18 consecutive months with no prospect of reconciliation to succeed on the no-fault ground for separation as governed by 2A:34-2(d). A divorce complaint cannot be filed until the 18 month period of separation has elapsed with the presumption that no reasonable prospect of reconciliation occurs after that period. The parties must have experienced irreconcilable differences for six months or more with no reasonable prospect of reconciliation to obtain a divorce on the basis of irreconcilable differences pursuant to 2A:34-2(I). In the case of an irreconcilable differences divorce or one based on fault grounds, the parties do not need to actually separate prior to commencement of the action.

New Jersey also recognizes fault grounds for divorce including adultery, desertion, extreme cruelty, voluntary addiction or habituation, institutionalization, imprisonment and deviant sexual conduct. Desertion must be willful and continued for a period of 12 months or more. Extreme cruelty can be mental or physical but must be to the extent that it makes it unreasonable to expect the parties to continue to reside together. The fault ground for voluntary addiction refers to addiction to any narcotic drug and/or habitual drunkenness for 12 months or more. Institutionalization for a mental illness must be of a period greater than 24 consecutive months. A divorce can be awarded on the basis of imprisonment for 18 months or more. If the divorce is not commenced until after the defendant’s release the parties cannot have resumed cohabitation. Finally, deviant sexual conduct is that which is voluntarily performed by the defendant against plaintiff’s will. Adultery can be established through circumstantial evidence and generally requires some corroboration. When raising a claim for adultery, the third party who participated in the adultery must be named as a co-defendant and has the right to intervene. There is generally no benefit to pursuing a fault based divorce over a no fault divorce.

All grounds for divorce require NJ residency for a period of at least one year with the exception of adultery. This is true as it relates to divorce from the bonds of matrimony, or absolute divorce, as well as divorce from bed and board, or limited divorce. In the case of a limited divorce the parties will still be legally married but are able to achieve separation financially. Just as with a divorce, the parties can enter an agreement to divide all their marital property or submit to the court for a decision on division. Alimony may also be awarded where appropriate. Health insurance may continue if covered by the other spouse and legal separation is not specified as a reason for termination. A divorce from bed and board can be converted to a divorce from the bonds of matrimony if the parties elect to go through with a full divorce. It can also be revoked such that the parties resume their marriage.

Some people going through a divorce in New Jersey may attempt to hide assets to prevent a spouse from receiving them in the split.

Any divorce in New Jersey presents a myriad of decisions that must be made: perhaps it has to do with how property may be divided or who will have custody of the children. Though the details of each case may differ, there is one constant: each party should be honest in disclosing any information that would be pertinent to making these decisions.

In fact, New Jersey laws require parties to complete and submit a “family case information statement” within a timeframe set by the court. The statement details family information, employment and income.

When it comes to property division, having a complete picture of each spouse’s assets is critical to ensuring the equitable distribution of those assets. Unfortunately, some people attempt to obscure items in an effort to prevent the loss of them. Here are some signs that this may be occurring:

Large purchases

Cash tends to be king, as it has a concrete value and is easily divided. However, cash is easily spent. When one spouse starts making large purchases – such as with expensive artwork, cars or taking big trips – it may be in an effort to prevent the other spouse from getting that cash. In other words, the cash is being converted into physical assets – and the spouse could even attempt to underreport the actual value of those assets.

Another way to minimize the amount of cash available in a divorce is to overpay a credit card or other debt. Perhaps one spouse decides to start putting extra money into the house payment. Sometimes, people create “fake” debts, such as money owed to a friend, in order to “pay off” the debt so the person essentially holds on to the cash until the divorce is final. This should raise a red flag.

Questionable statements

It is always critical to monitor statements from credit card companies and investments. But what happens if those statements suddenly go missing? Or perhaps have unexpected transactions on them? It could indicate that a spouse is trying to keep his or her other half from accessing assets.

People going through a divorce should also keep an eye out for new statements from banks or credit card companies that may be new. While it is not illegal for someone to open a new account during this time, it is essential that they disclose that information during the divorce proceedings.

Underreported income

Even with the financial disclosure statement is submitted, both parties should thoroughly review it for accuracy. Some people may try to underreport what they make. Though a W-2 or other tax form could easily dispute this, it is not always as easy with people who are paid in cash.

Uncovering assets

Fortunately, with a little work, these hidden assets may be uncovered. Experts suggest hiring a forensic accountant or other specialist who can do a deep dive into a couple’s assets. This process may require providing names, addresses and Social Security numbers of family members.

Anyone who has concerns about this issue should speak with a family law attorney in New Jersey.

If you are seeking to move to a distance that makes your current custody schedule difficult or impossible to follow it classifies as a relocation. In the event of a move that does classify as a relocation the party looking to move should obtain the written consent of the other parent or court approval. Previously, New Jersey courts primarily focused on if there would be any harm to the child in allowing the move. In a recent decision (Bisbing v. Bisbing) the New Jersey courts have shifted their focus to considering if the move is in the child’s best interests. This standard puts the burden on the party looking to relocate to demonstrate how it benefits the child. It also allows for a better look at how the move affects both parents.

In the instant case, a mother has primary custody of the parties’ two daughters pursuant to their marital settlement agreement. Mother sought to relocate with the daughters to Utah and Father objected to the move. At the initial court proceeding, the court agreed that the move would not be to the children’s detriment. On appeal, the court held that a best interest analysis should be applied instead. This change in the standard for relocation will certainly have an impact on the number of successful relocation requests given it requires a more stringent analysis as to the effects on the children.

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The New Jersey Divorce Statutes provide for alternate ways to notify the opposing party of a divorce action if you do not have any contact information for the opposing party. One method is by substitute service on a special agent. This method involves serving the complaint on a person who is likely to be able to get it to the Defendant; typically, a close friend or relative. The other method involves publication of the complaint in the county where the Defendant was last known to reside. For either of the above methods, you must get approval by the court first. The court must be satisfied that every effort has been made to locate the Defendant including but not limited to inquiries of the Defendant’s friends, family, employer as well as inquiries through the post office, department of motor vehicles, voter registration, and the military.

If you are still unable to get contact information for the Defendant despite the inquiries as listed above, you can file a petition with the court for substitute service or service by publication. Where service by publication is granted, you will be responsible to publish notice of the divorce in the paper specified by the court and provide proof to the court that it was in fact published. If the Defendant does not respond in the time frame allotted, the divorce can then move forward. The next step is likely requesting a default judgment for Defendant’s failure to answer or respond.

Click here to read more on NJ Family Law.