Alimony reform has already been discussed as a hot button issue in New Jersey. New Jersey courts will order permanent alimony in divorces under certain circumstances such as to a dependent spouse in a long term marriage. The loudest proponent of alimony reform in New Jersey has been Tom Leustek, a professor at Rutgers and the co-founder of the grassroots organization, “New Jersey Alimony Reform.”
On January 26, 2012, Mr. Leustek published an article in New Jersey.Com. The article suggests that alimony is routinely awarded on a permanent and unfair basis in the state. It is Mr. Leustek’s opinion that the court isn’t granting warranted modifications based on salary reductions or other significant changes in the parties’ circumstances. The rules have left hard working payors and their families impoverished while the recipients of alimony are being rewarded for not working full time or otherwisetaking advantage of and skirting the system.
Two letters to the editor responded to the article on January 27, 2012 with two very viable solutions to the problem. One of the published letters advocates using mediation as an alternative to litigation so that the parties may retain control over their divorce and thereby retaining control over the issue of the alimony obligation. “Every divorce situation is unique, and by using mediation, the couples negotiate the alimony issue for themselves. Mediation enables individuals to address their individual circumstances and work out a plan that will work for them, without leaving it to the courts.”
“[T]he result is an alimony obligation that works for them and, at the same time, avoids contentious and continuing litigation.”
The second responding letter to the editor suggests the creation and use of alimony guidelines in order to “mitigate the uncertainties in the current system.” The author advocates for the, “prompt development and passage of alimony guidelines, analogous to the child support guidelines.”
Hopefully the legislature will act to pass some structured alimony guidelines in order to address the inequities and uncertainty in the alimony award process and/or the public, in the meantime, may begin opting to retain control over their divorce through mediation.