Alimony Reform Act

This synopsis is a partial interpretive reading of the Alimony Reform Act of 2011 and is subject to further change and addition on further reading. This act has created changes that might not only modify prior divorce judgments/orders but also affect divorces presently filed. Most noteworthy are the following changes:

  1. When the judge is considering the factors in dividing marital assets, the judge shall also consider whether alimony should be awarded and the duration for which it shall continue.
  2. Special categories of alimony were defined.

General term alimony” is “the periodic payment of support to a recipient spouse who is economically dependent.

Rehabilitative alimony” is “the periodic payment of support to a recipient spouse who is expected to become economically self-sufficient by a predicted time, such as, without limitation, reemployment; completion of job training …”

  1. Rehabilitative alimony shall not be for more than 5 years.
  2. If the recipient has not remarried, rehabilitative alimony can be extended after 5 years by filing a complaint for modification showing the following:
    (a.) “unforeseen event prevent the recipient spouse from being self-supporting at the end of the term…”;
    (b.) a court finding that the recipient tried to become self-supporting; and
    (c.) Payor still has the ability to pay.
  3. Court can modify rehabilitative alimony if there is a material change of circumstances.
  4. Rehabilitative alimony terminates on the remarriage of the recipient, the occurrence of a specific future event or the death of either spouse

Reimbursement alimony” is the periodic or one-time payment of support to a recipient spouse after a marriage of not more than 5 years and for the purpose of compensating the recipient for economic or noneconomic contribution to the financial resources of the payor spouse, such as enabling the payor spouse to complete an education or job training.” Perhaps the Wife or Husband supported the other spouse while in medical school, law school, etc..

  1. Reimbursement alimony terminates on death of the recipient or a date certain that was determined by the court.
  2. Not modifiable by either party

Transitional alimony” is “the periodic payment or one-time payment of support to a recipient spouse after a marriage of not more than 5 years and for the purpose of transitioning the recipient to an adjusted lifestyle or location as a result of the divorce.”

  1. It “may not be modified, extended or replaced by another form of alimony.”

The length of a marriage is computed from the number of months from the date of marriage to the date that the complaint is served or the date the petition for divorce is filed.

The court has the discretion to increase this time period if evidence is provided that parties had an “economic marital partnership” during the time that they lived together prior to the marriage.

If retirement has occurred or the recipient spouse is cohabitating with a partner, the payor spouse may file a complaint for modification of alimony.

Retirement is defined as the “usual or ordinary retirement age for United States …social security benefits” and does not include early retirement.

Factors in considering cohabitation are the following;

  1. “Oral or written statements or representations made to third parties regarding the relationship of the cohabitants”
  2. “Economic interdependence of the couple or economic dependence of 1 party on the other”
  3. “Common household couple engaging in conduct and collaborative roles in furtherance of their life together”
  4. “Benefit in life of either or both of the common household parties from their relationship”
  5. “Community reputation of the parties as a couple”

If alimony is “suspended, reduced, or terminated” under this act can be reinstated if the cohabitation relationship ends.

Alimony may be modified by material change of circumstances in duration and amount.

Alimony in general “shall terminate upon the remarriage of the recipient or the death of the payor.

Time periods regarding payment of alimony

  1. “If the duration of marriage is 5 years or less, general term alimony shall be no greater than one-half the number of months of the marriage.”
  2. “If the duration of marriage is 10 years or less, but more than 5 years, general tem alimony shall be no greater than 60 percent of the number of months of the marriage.”
  3. “If the duration of marriage is 15 years general term alimony shall be no greater than 70 per cent of the number of months of the marriage.”
  4. If the duration of marriage is 20 years of less, but more than 15 years, general term alimony shall be no greater than 80 per cent of the number of months of the marriage.”

“Except for reimbursement alimony…the amount of alimony should generally not exceed the recipient’s need or 30 percent to 35 percent of the difference between the parties’ gross income established at the time the order being issued.”

Excluded are the following:

  1. Capital gains and dividends and interest on assets already equitably divided at the time of divorce
  2. Gross income the court has already considered when child support was ordered

Deviation from duration and amount limits for general alimony and rehabilitative alimony make occur under the following circumstances:

  1. “Advanced age; chronic illness; or unusual health circumstances of either party;
  2. Tax considerations;
  3. Payment of health insurance and amount paid;
  4. Whether payor had to obtain life insurance for the payee’s benefit and the cost;
  5. Sources and amounts of unearned income…not allocated in the parties divorce;
  6. Party’s inability to provide for support due to physical or mental abuse by the payor;
  7. Inability of a party to provide for his or her support; and
  8. Any other factors the court deems relevant.

In determining income with regard to alimony the court can impute income, make the assumption that a party can make more money and chooses not to do so.

Material change

  1. There is no material change of circumstances warranting modification of prior alimony judgment as long as the durational limits have not been exceeded.
  2. Filing for modifications are not a right if the parties that agreed that alimony was not modifiable or have made alimony provisions survive the judgment of divorce.
  3. If payor remarries, his new wife’s income and assets are not consideration in determining a new alimony reward in a filed modification.
  4. Overtime or second job are presumed immaterial if

1. Time worked is more than a full-time position and
2. Overtime or second job started after the entry of the original order.

If court orders security for alimony order, this order can be modified by a material change of circumstances.

Modification filing only because the alimony judgment “exceeds the durational limit” must meet the following criteria:

  1. If a payor was married 5 years or less, the modification may not be filed until “on or after March 1, 2013.”
  2. If a payor was married 10 years or less but more than 5, the modification may not be filed until “on or after March 1, 2014.”
  3. If a payor was married 15 years or less but more than 10, the modification may not be filed until “on or after March 1, 2015.”
  4. If a payor was married 20 years or less but more than 15, the modification may not be filed until “on or after March 1, 2015.”

Despite the criteria in filing for a modification if the durational limits are exceeded, a former spouse paying alimony is eligible to file for a modification on or after March 1, 2013 if he or she is “eligible for the full old-age benefit under the United States Old Age, Disability, and Survivor Act… or will become eligible for said benefit on or before March 1, 2015.”

The first seven sections of this act do not become effective until March 1, 2012.