By Senior Correspondent Desirée Taylor
Divorce brings up many thorny issues — who should pay, for how long and how much? And what happens if your ex is co-habitating with another person? Should the payer still have to pay alimony? Lawmakers will be facing these and other questions when they consider a bill that aims to reform New Jersey’s alimony laws. The bill calls for eliminating permanent alimony. And it establishes guidelines for the amount and duration of alimony awards.
Sheila Taylor, who leads the group New Jersey Women for Alimony Reform, believes these changes are long overdue. “Alimony shouldn’t be a lifelong sentence,” said Taylor.
Taylor says she is lifetime alimony payer. She believes there’s a misconception that spousal support or alimony is usually awarded to women. But she knows of many women and men who have similar horror stories. “I know one person who was married for 11 years. He’s now been paying for 44 years and he’s in a nursing home with Alzheimer’s,” said Taylor.
But former Judge David Issenman, who estimates he has presided over 21,000 divorces, has concerns about the bill because he believes eliminating permanent alimony could limit a judge’s discretion. And he points out that every case is different.
“Are there egregious situations? I am sure. But for every egregious situation reformers will tell you … I could tell you about a different one. And I wouldn’t base a complete change on jurisprudence on anecdotal stories,” said Issenman.
The bill has been introduced in the Assembly. It’s modeled after a similar law in Massachusetts.
Related: NJ Lawmakers Consider Alimony Reform