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Alimony reform still being discussed in New Jersey

Many New Jersey residents are likely aware by this point that there is a large movement afoot to reform the state's alimony award process for people who are getting a divorce. The issue is a thorny one, because there are powerful interests aligned on both sides of the issue.

Currently, judges have total discretion in divorce trials over whether to award alimony. Reform advocates argue that allowing lifetime alimony encourages recipients not to find work. If someone gets a good-paying job after a divorce, the judge may not see it necessary to continue alimony.

It appears that any reforms will be slow to develop. The New Jersey General Assembly passed a bill earlier this summer to create a commission that will study the issue. The Senate has yet to act on the bill, so the study has not even begun.

Reform advocates tell stories of middle class people struggling to make ends meet because their alimony obligations are too high. A 47-year-old plumber from New Jersey said that he has been sent to jail twice for failing to make his weekly payments of $450 to his wife. He said his one-man business has slowed in recent years, and he's had to take on other side jobs just to get by. A 58-year-old teacher will have to turn over half of her pension to her ex-husband, who she says never had a steady job.

But many women have argued that they gave up work to care for children, which diminishes their earning power after a divorce. One woman said her husband hid his assets before a divorce so he wouldn't owe her as much.

This is a tricky issue for New Jersey residents going through a divorce. What should be the outcome?

Source: Philadelphia Inquirer, "New Jersey struggles with the knotty issue of alimony reform," Joelle Farrell, Aug. 19, 2012

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