N.J. alimony reform discussion brings the best out of NewsWorks readers

    Kudos to the New Jersey NewsWorks readers who joined our discussion on alimony reform. It’s very much the way we always hoped reader discussions would go on this site. Thank you for letting cooler heads prevail.

    New Jersey NewsWorks readers get a gold star. The commenters who joined our recent discussion on alimony reform demonstrated exactly the sort of reader discussion we hope for on this site.

    At a public NewsWorks forum in Burlington, N.J., a contingent of attendees from New Jersey Alimony Reform, with a lot to say about lifetime alimony awards, inspired us to pose a question to readers: Do alimony reform laws need a tweak? The post from April 26 got an immediate and very strong response from men and women.

    What impressed us most is that, despite the high emotions involved, the comments are on the whole very measured and civil. Members of NJAR did not abuse the space as a platform to push an agenda, but rather ran through their main points and let them stand.

    An attorney who chimed in, saying essentially that permanent alimony is not as common as some would have you think, got a lot of feedback. It might have been an ugly pile-on — as is often the case in online commenting forums — but everyone was very polite. And she revisited the thread to expresses sympathy with commenters.

    Leafing through the comments, one gets a good sense of the worst effects of lifetime alimony awards (on the payers) and what New Jersey could do to make the laws more fair (in their opinion).

    Thank you, New Jersey, for letting cooler heads prevail. My only wish: that we had gotten a couple of comments from people in favor of current law.

    Here are some representative comments.

    If at a divorce hearing the judge declared one party would get everything and the other party would loose everything, no one would consider that fair (except the attorneys.) But that is exactly what longtime alimony does. In fact, the one receiving lifetime alimony often receives double or triple the value of the marital estate and the alimony payer would have been much better off if the judge would have given everything to the opposing spouse and let the alimony payer start a new life.

    NJ should start by making it illegal for one spouse to never receive more than 100% of the marital estate.—entn01

     

    Too many people pay permanent alimony. Whether they were married for 9 years or 11 years is not the point. Too many alimony recipients have “hit the lottery” with a lifetime of leisure guaranteed by a hard-worker former spouse stuck in involuntary servitude. There is no reason that able-bodied educated former spouses should be allowed to enjoy lavish lifestyles without lifting a finger simply because they divorced in NJ.—Dean Dobkin

     

    I agreed to ‘settle’ as the advice of my attorney, who said a judge could impose far worse financial compensation to my soon to be ex spouse. ‘settling’ while your arm is being twisted isn’t settling at all. I was married 20 years, divorced 14, have since been forced to retire, and am currently paying a man who vacations for 2 months at a time twice a year while I struggle to keep my home. And I can’t afford an attorney to try and modify it. So his death is my only hope. How do you think that affects my children?—Christina Best

     

    Judges should use a payor’s most recent pay to determine alimony payments..but they don’t. My partner just got his divorce judgement…his payments are more than his salary…please explain that logic to me. Getting it modified doesn’t seem likely now does it. So now he faces constant threats of incarceration!!— deb

     

    Texas will only hand out a 10 year maximum sentence for alimony regardless of length of marriage, and I do believe that Indiana has a max of 3 years. It’s a shame that these family law attorneys feed off American families, knowing what the potential outcome(s) can be…bankruptcy, suicide, alcholisim, drug addiction, etc. And, what about the children?—Susan Jordan

     

    Even children grow up and are no longer the Legal Financial Responsibility of their parents. How is it fair that a person has to be responsible for the full lifetime financial support of an ADULT ex-spouse of many years ago.—Charles

     

    Start publishing the case with the outcome and the offending judges name, with a history of that judge and his unjust findings. No one likes to see their dirty deeds in print, especially a judge, who is elected.If you are already getting the short end of the stick, what else do you have to lose. Using public exposure to a real problem is one way to get your point across and out front.—Terry Williams

     

    Many cases are settled prior to trial. Most time they are settled at the advice of attorneys who are telling the client it is better to settle with a number you can live with than to roll the dice with a tyrant judge. […] To get married in New Jersey today if you’re not on even financial ground with your partner, you need your head examined…—Brian Keister

     

    Alimony laws need more than a “tweak”. Debtor’s prison was outlawed somrtime around 1830, yet in NJ people are being jailed for being UNABLE to pay the huge alimony payments ordered by the NJ family court system.—Bea

     

    I […] am appalled at the experiences of some of the commentators who were divorced in NJ. I help clients figure out the best possible settlement given what the state of the law is, in light of the substantial risk and cost of going to trial, and their particular financial circumstances. I understand that the process yields inequitable results and I applaud people who take their experiences and their beliefs to their legislators for review of existing laws and potential curative action. As a family law practitioner, I have been watching the attempts at alimony refrom in NJ, Mass, and other states with genuine interest and look forward to seeing what results from citizen action through the elected legislature.— Carmela Novi, Esq.

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