NJWAR is a group of New Jersey women who advocate the reform of New Jersey’s outdated alimony laws.
Our group includes:
- Woman alimony payers
- New partners of alimony payers whose income is vulnerable to being taken to make support payments to their partner’s ex-spouse
- Family and friends who have witnessed and shared in the devastating personal impacts of lifetime alimony awards
- Concerned citizens who realize that the future holds increasing risk to women, threatening hard fought social and economic gains made since the 1960’s
The problems with New Jersey alimony laws are this:
- After divorce, permanent lifetime alimony is the right of the lower income spouse after a marriage of only 10 years —sometimes less
- The amount of alimony is determined based on 13 vague factors, one of which is the supported spouse has the right to be maintained in the “marital lifestyle” … “for life”
- It is almost impossible to persuade a judge to modify lifetime alimony even where there is a job loss, career change, disability or when the payer retires in old age
- We believe these laws are unfair… whether the payer is a man or a woman
As society has changed and women have made great strides in the struggle for equality, New Jersey’s obsolete alimony laws pose a grave risk to women. The Bureau of Labor Statistics data show that currently, in nearly 40% of marriages, the wife earns more than the husband. Other published data show that women occupy 51% of managerial and professional jobs in the United States, and they dominate nine of the ten job categories expected to grow most in the next decade. No woman wants the income that she worked so hard to achieve, to be lost as a result of flawed laws that have not been seriously updated since the equal rights drive began 40 years ago.
Current New Jersey Family Law Is Broken:
- Current New Jersey law requires that a court consider 13 factors in making an alimony award
- Less than 1% of divorce cases go to trial. Why?
- As a practical matter the 13 factors are argued by family lawyers in conference rooms and courthouse hallways
- Consequently, the current law draws battle lines and encourages conflict rather than settlement.
- Protracted arguments ensue over the 13 factors and the marital lifestyle, when in reality there is usually not money available to actually fund the marital lifestyle after a divorce
- The crude and brutal truth is that the family law bar provides the mercenary warriors who profit from the engagement on this battlefield.
- Neither women, men nor children are well-served by the conflict that is encouraged by the existing legal structure
Did you know that:
- Even though it is reported that alimony can be modified when the payer falls on hard times it is almost impossible to convince a judge that circumstances have changed
- A changed circumstance needs to be ‘permanent’ in order to qualify for alimony reduction, so 3 years of temporary disability or temporary unemployment can drive you to bankruptcy
- Alimony continues after retirement or disability, despite the fact that income has been reduced
- Bankruptcy doesn’t qualify you for a reduction in alimony
- A new spouse’s income can be tapped to pay alimony to an ex who they were never married to
- If you get an inheritance, win the lottery; your ex may be entitled to half
- If you cannot pay the entirety of your alimony you be sentenced to jail
- If you cannot pay the entirety of your alimony you can lose your license, passport, even if they are necessary for you to work
- Drug use by your ex is viewed as an illness and doesn’t disqualify them from receiving alimony
- Spousal abuse, both physical and psychological, doesn’t disqualify the abuser from receiving alimony
- Working off the books, misrepresenting income, and other fraud doesn’t disqualify the perpetrator from receiving alimony
- The alimony payer cannot love, marry or get on with their lives without risking the financial future of their new partner and the financial future of the children you might have
- If the alimony recipient cohabitates with another person it is grounds for disqualification from alimony, but cohabitation is nearly impossible to prove
- Alimony is ordered in divorces of childless marriages
THINK OF THIS:
- You stay with your spouse for the sake of the children or religious values or love…
- NJ is a no fault state. Doesn’t matter who did what, it is all about the money…who made what
- Doesn’t matter if the ex was purposely unemployed or underemployed… alimony will be ordered
- If you are a parent, you are only responsible for your child until they are 18…no matter what their medical/financial/psychological problems are. But a dependent ex-spouse is a dependent FOR LIFE
- If you were still married and you lost your job, the family would have to adjust their standard of living, but after divorce the alimony payer bears all of the financial responsibility under penalty of jail
- Maintaining the marital lifestyle is the touchstone of NJ alimony laws, but after alimony is set only the lifestyle of the recipient matters, the alimony payer can go bankrupt and still be required to pay
NJWAR supports at least the following basic legal reforms to update New Jersey’s family laws to be consistent with those in many other states and protect the interests of both women and men:
- Abandon the Marital Standard of Living Doctrine: The martial standard of living doctrine is obsolete in a society where most households are supported by dual incomes. Forcing a single wage-earner—whether a man or a woman--to provide the marital lifestyle that was established by two workers is simply inequitable.
- Alimony Limits: Adopt guidelines or a formula to provide a reasonable limit on the amount and duration of alimony and pendente lite support awards. Dozens of other jurisdictions have such reasonable laws in place. Guidelines should be written for the vast majority of average divorce cases. Judicial discretion should be reserved for extreme cases only.
- Terminate Alimony at Retirement. We also advocate the termination of all alimony at the time that the supporting spouse attains the federal social security retirement age or earlier if the alimony payer is in a high-risk profession that permits early retirement.
- Liberalize Standards for Modifications: We seek legislation that will simplify the alimony modification process so that a reduction in the supporting spouse’s income (not deliberately incurred to avoid alimony obligations), automatically results in a proportional reduction of the support obligation. The intact family would endure this hardship and there is no reason that after a divorce the supported spouse should be immune from the economic misfortunes of the supporting spouse.
- ELIMINATION OF ALIMONY PAYMENTS BY VICTIMS OF DOMESTIC VIOLENCE TO THEIR ABUSERS: NJWAR believes that no victim of domestic violence should pay alimony to their abuser. Current legislation only addresses the impact of domestic violence in a divorce if a Tevis Claim is filed and then won by the victim. Alimony is currently granted to perpetrators of domestic violence, even when there is evidence of domestic violence or when a Restraining Order is in place.