Currently New Jersey still provides for permanent alimony under certain circumstances including long term marriage and/or a significant discrepancy in earning capacity between the parties. According to a recent article by Elizabeth Benedict in the Huff Post, times they are a changing. A grassroots movement in Massachusetts begun by an individual, Stephen Hitner, brought the matter to the legislature and was successful in spearheading the reform of oppressive alimony laws in the Commonwealth.
Permanent alimony is also common in Florida. A bill has already been introduced in the Florida legislature to reduce the amount and duration of alimony awards. New Jersey’s alimony reform movement is a more recent development and on the move to follow in the footsteps of Massachusetts and Florida. President and Co-founder of New Jersey Alimony Reform, Tom Leustek, is currently collecting alimony horror stories.
There’s a time and a place for permanent alimony in limited circumstances. Consider a 30 year marriage wherein one spouse has been dependent on the other for a lifetime and looking forward to a retirement together when the rug gets pulled out from under your dreams for your golden years. On the other hand, the insignificant threshold of 10 or 15 years for an award of permanent alimony isn’t accomplishing the goal that alimony set out to meet. Alimony should allow a dependent spouse or significantly lower earner to get back on his or her financial feet and/or reimburse that party for the support provided during the marriage.
Pennsylvania’s unwritten practice of providing one year of alimony for every three years of marriage seems to accomplish that goal. The legislature must always provide for the individual circumstances of a case, but it’s time for the pendulum to swing back to a more fair and reasonable reality and economy.