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Alimony changes may be unnecessary, expert says

Married couples in New Jersey should be aware that their marriage -- like all others -- could come to an end with a divorce. Divorce is a part of family law which can be a stressful area of the legal system to traverse.

One of the hardest parts of the divorce process for people from New Jersey is the alimony determination. Currently, spousal support can -- and often is -- awarded for the entirety of the life of the payor, according to some.

Advocates against this supposed lifetime alimony suggest that long-term alimony lasts for the rest of someone's life after it is assigned. This suggests that an individual will have to pay their former spouse on a monthly basis until they die. These advocacy groups want New Jersey law to be changed so that judges can no longer award lifetime spousal support.

But one professor of family law believes that the term is new and that lifetime alimony is a misnomer. She says that the proper term is "long-term alimony" and it can be altered if a former spouse heads to court and convinces a judge that the situation has changed.

She also says that permanent alimony is not awarded as frequently as some might believe. Judges are more likely to give lifetime alimony to spouses that have been married for a considerable amount of time. Yet according to the professor, needs and ability to pay are considered as are the health and ages of both spouses involved.

If the person seeking alimony sacrificed their ability to earn an income for the sake of the marriage, the likelihood that they will be awarded alimony is increased.

Even if permanent alimony is given, it is possible to have it altered. But many do not have the ability to afford an attorney to have the process followed through. This leaves many without a modification simply because they cannot afford it.

Source: Star-Ledger, "Does judge's discretion make alimony fairer?," Feb. 10, 2012

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