What is New Jersey Alimony Reform?
New Jersey Alimony Reform (NJAR) is a group of women and men dedicated to changing New Jersey’s harsh and outdated alimony laws to be fair and reasonable.
Today’s NJ Alimony laws are oppressive. They are harsh enough to force the money-earner into bankruptcy, incarceration, to leave the country, or worse. All this the result of LIFETIME Alimony. Why should anyone be forced to pay 50 or more years of lifetime alimony after having been married for just 10 years?
NJ Alimony Reform is a 501(c)(4) not-for-profit organization that was formed to reform the outdated alimony laws in New Jersey.
Why We Need Reform
In NJ, there are no clear rules for judges to follow, only vague guidelines. Instead of “Support” as a transition to normal life, alimony receiving spouses are “Awarded” -for getting divorced. The amount often encourages them never to work again, never to marry again, and never to be a productive part of society. And the alimony payers – they are left to carry the burden for the rest of their lives.
We don’t think that NJ should be promoting a culture that burdens one person with arduous payments for the rest of their life if their marriage doesn’t work out. We seek to change the law into an equitable and reasonable settlement, justified to both parties. Like the newly created Massachusetts Alimony reform bill signed into law in 2011.
The Current NJ Laws are From a Bygone Era
New Jersey alimony laws were mostly established in the 1940’s and 1950’s – when virtually all women were stay-at-home mothers and men were the family breadwinner. Few career opportunities existed for women. Alimony laws were necessary to ensure that divorced wives didn’t have to collect welfare. Back then divorce was rare and being a single woman was scandalous. No-longer. Today 50% of marriages end in divorce. Divorce has grown into a multibillion dollar industry that provides lucrative incomes to a cadre of divorce lawyers and legal experts.
Today is Very, Very Different
Women are half of the work force. In 38% of married households wives out earn their husbands. Educational and career opportunities abound. Encore careers are commonplace among mature and productive adults. Yet the antiquated alimony laws remain. Worse yet, all common sense has left the interpretation of even these laws, and the lawyers and judges have made them even more oppressive.
NJ eliminated gender bias in its divorce laws in the 1970‘s, and today an increasing number of men receive alimony. However, gender neutrality did not fix a basic unfairness of alimony law, which demands LIFETIME alimony be paid to a former spouse without any encouragement for them to become self-supporting. Spouses that pay alimony usually pay… until… their… death! There is no escape, and no retirement to pay a lesser amount. So, de facto, there is no retirement for the LIFETIME alimony payer. Work until you die to pay your able-bodied ex-spouse. Doesn’t seem fair, does it? No, we don’t think so either.
Current Alimony Laws are Based on Sexist and Outdated Concepts
The outdated concept, on which alimony was originally based, that divorced women are incapable of self-sufficiency, is alive and well in NJ even though alimony is claimed to be gender-neutral. By leaving the choice to become self-supporting entirely to the alimony recipient the law ignores the truth that most people, when offered “free income for life” are not likely to make any effort to independence. Like winning the lottery! Unfortunately the flip-side of one spouse’s “Free Income for Life” is “Pay Until Death” to the other. A LIFETIME sentence. No time off. No reduction of payments when the payer tries to retire.
New Jersey’s Unfair Lifetime Alimony Statutes Have Truly Horrific Consequences
People who cannot afford LIFETIME alimony are forced to remain in dead marriages.
Heartless opportunists have free reign to savage another person.
Divorcing spouses become locked in a perpetual state of acrimony and litigation.
The children of the marriage are continually exposed to the hostility of “who gets what money.”
The costs to the alimony payer are especially harsh. NJ judges have shown themselves to be unwilling to reduce alimony after the loss of a job, retirement in old age, sickness, or less pay in today’s unfortunate economy.
Judges force alimony payers to spend their lifetime of savings in a futile effort to save themselves — paying an able-bodied ex-spouse and for expensive attorneys.
Ex-spouse alimony payers are unable to form new relationships for fear of exposing the new partner to their horrendous legal entanglements. Ex-spouse alimony receivers are unwilling to risk the loss of their “Free Money for Life” by marrying.
In extreme but all too common cases, alimony payers who are unable to pay alimony after a job loss are criminalized by judges who order their imprisonment. YES… Imprisonment! For losing a job – imprisonment for marrying the wrong person and now not being able to pay the “Award”.
Why The Injustice?
Reasonable people question whether it is appropriate for the State to mete-out such incredible suffering for having been party to a failed marriage. Given these realities most reasonable people wonder whether lifetime alimony law is somewhat like a lifetime prison sentence – or a modern day system of slavery. What made the process of selecting the wrong spouse such a heinous crime that one continues to pay for it until death. Almost all convicted bank robbers, and even some murderers get out of jail before their death.
Reasonable people wonder why the State of New Jersey is not promoting self-sufficiency for all of its able-bodied citizens, including divorced alimony recipients.
We at New Jersey Alimony Reform believe that now is the time to revise and update the outdated alimony laws in New Jersey to reflect current realities, to minimize litigation and conflict, reduce the cost of legal fees, and to promote independence and equity for the parties to divorce.
Our Goals For Reforming Alimony
We believe, very simply, New Jersey should ENCOURAGE INDEPENDENCE for divorcing couples. Alimony must serve as a transition to independence, not an “Award” and certainly not a lifetime entitlement – for one spouse never to have to work again.
There are two primary goals of New Jersey Alimony Reform – to achieve our legislative objectives by reforming the current, outdated almony laws, and to educate the public and bring awareness to this cause.
Amend New Jersey’s alimony laws so that judges have clear guidelines to:
- Support self-sufficiency and independence for the lower-earning spouse through alimony payments that continue over a transition period that is proportional to the length of the marriage. The objective of alimony should be to allow each party of the divorce to move-on with independent and productive lives.
- Alimony must be proportional to the length of the marriage. Why should anyone be forced to pay 50 or more years of lifetime alimony after having been married for just 10 years?
- Limit the amount of alimony awards. We believe there should be a reasonable limit, reasonable to both parties. We believe there should be a reasonable limit to the amount of alimony awards. Reasonable to both parties. Currently, alimony awarded by judges is haphazard and inconsistent across NJ. As a result, mediation on alimony between divorcing spouses is much more akin to legalized coercion than it is good faith negotiation. The outcome is increased litigation at the dire expense to both spouses; and a tremendous waste of the court system and judges – paid for by all New Jersey taxpayers.
- Current alimony payers should be considered in any new legislation. Alimony Reform Legislation must be considered a change of circumstance so current alimony payers can modify their existing alimony arrangements. This will promote fair modifications for current alimony payers under the terms of any new legislation.
- Abolish”Double Dipping”- maritial assets must be counted once and only once. If a retirement asset is equally split in a divorce, that asset must not be used additionally to pay alimony in retirement, or after job loss, or reduction in income. If alimony is paid the recipient must be viewed as having received their fair share of family income. What remains for the payer, the savings and capital gains derived from THEIR income, must not be used to calculate the ability to pay alimony in retirement, or as a result of job loss, or income reduction.Although double-dipping is currently prohibited in the alimony statutes, judges routinely ignore it when ruling on alimony modifications.
- Grant the right to retire for alimony payers – no less than the same rights enjoyed by all other citizens. We believe the laws should Grant alimony payers the right to retire. All citizens who have worked hard all of their lives and have saved their money, should enjoy a well-deserved right to retire in their old age. Why should alimony payers be stripped of this right simply for having been party to a failed marriage? Why should alimony recipients have their retirement guaranteed by “Free Income for Life” alimony, and not have the responsibility of saving for retirement just like everyone else?
- Provide equal and consistent treatment, where the outcome of an alimony case is not decided by the haphazard selection of the family court judge. The current system, based on vague guidelines and the discretion of divorce judges, produces widely different and grossly inconsistent results across the State. Why should the outcome of divorce be like a game of Russian roulette?
- Reduce expensive legal battles that cost all NJ taxpayers. Vague alimony guidelines and interpretations promote litigation and use court resources that are paid for by all New Jersey taxpayers.
- Maintain appropriate judicial discretion to fairly judge unique circumstances where the lower-earning spouse is physically or mentally unable to work to gain self-sufficiency, permitting alimony payments only until no longer needed. We believe judges should have some power to make fair decisions in unusual circumstances where deviation from our proposed reform law is warranted. But we also believe there should be the possibility for review of the process of these decisions – by a panel of judge’s or by a jury of peers.
How You Can Help
We need your help as a member, and a supporter of the total reform of New Jersey Alimony laws. Because it won’t happen without you! Contribute to NJ Alimony Reform.
We need your help as a member, and a supporter of the total reform of New Jersey Alimony laws. Because it won’t happen without you!
Face reality, it’s up to us – concerned and activist citizens – to MAKE change happen. To reinstitute laws that are fair – and just – to both ex-partners in a divorce. The matrimonial law system in NJ has a momentum that is driven by its history and its practitioners, judges and lawyers. The system generates enormous amounts of income for its practitioners. What we at New Jersey Alimony Reform are proposing is true reform of this system, for the first time in history! The system will not budge unless we get together and push it, together!
We believe judges should have some power to make fair decisions in unusual circumstances where deviation from our proposed reform law is warranted. But we also believe there should be the possibility for review of the process of these decisions – by a panel of judge’s or by a jury of peers. And we’d like – we need – your help in bringing a change to these laws.
Here’s what you can do:
Join us. Sign up to our mailing list. Become a member of our organization. Volunteer yourself. Tell us how you would change the law. We read and evaluate all comments. The best comments will be incorporated into the recommendations of the laws we seek to change.
Donate. We are a non-profit, and your money is used only to help get these unfair, outdated and unjust laws changed. Your donation will help us to reach further, to have these laws changed faster. Donations can be monetary, but you can also donate your services, or your time.
Submit Your Horror Story. Send us an email telling us what happened to you. Tell us what you believe was unfair – even anonymously – so that others can see they are not alone in what is happening to them, and legislators can see why NJ alimony laws desperately need reforming.
Write your legislature. It’s up to us to convince legislators to change the law. To have them take a serious look at alimony reform, we need to show our legislators that their voters and supporters want this change. If we have enough people, they will make the change – they’ll have to. But, we need you – and your friends, and their friends – to convince them. It’s a game of numbers. We need you to help our numbers count.
Recruit Other Members. Discuss alimony reform with everyone and urge them to join our cause. Of course, lifetime alimony payers will want to be members, but anyone who fears being abused by the alimony laws or fears that their friends and family will be (or continue to be) abused will also want to reform alimony laws in New Jersey.
Please go to our sign up page right now and sign up. Then go to our “Horror Stories” pages, and fill out our invitation to submit your story. Then go to our donate page, and make a donation. Tell your friends and family about our cause. Thanks.
We aim to educate legislators to the injustice of current alimony laws and the real need to change them. We aim to raise public awareness of the injustices taking place in family court.
Three approaches will be used to achieve our goals.
- Interact directly with legislators in one-one-one discussions,
- Utilize the electronic, paper, and radio media to tell our story.
- To recruit a large grassroots effort that will convince legislators that their voting constituents want reform of alimony laws.