Governor Chris Christie of New Jersey recently signed a number of bills into law, two of which will affect our family law clients with cases in New Jersey. One of the new laws makes major changes to the process courts must use to decide how much alimony to award and how long to award it.

In any case where one spouse asks for alimony, the judge will have to issue a written ruling explaining his or her analysis of the alimony factors outlined by New Jersey law. The existing law included a number of factors, but now judges also have to account for factors including the spouses’ ages at the time of marriage and separate, the need for separate homes, and the health problems of either spouse.

The new law also changes how courts determine the duration of an alimony award. In the past, the starting point for a judge’s analysis was “permanent alimony,” and the judge then had to explain why he or she was ordering a shorter duration. However, the new law states that for marriages less than 20 years, alimony generally cannot last longer than the length of the marriage.

Judges will also be allowed to terminate alimony if the spouse receiving it starts cohabiting with someone else, and they can modify it if the spouse paying it has been unemployed for at least 90 days.

The second law that will impact our New Jersey family law clients is the Family Collaborative Law Act, which attempts to make the divorce process less adversarial and more like mediation. Spouses that participate in that process will still have their own attorneys, but they can potentially avoid stressful litigation.

The new alimony law and the collaborative divorce law are sure to have an impact on future divorces in New Jersey. If you or a family member is facing divorce, please contact the family law attorneys at Petrelli Previtera today.