Summary of the Bill
The bill deals with more than alimony, but drastically affects alimony so it is being referred to as the “alimony bill.” It was signed by the Governor and became law on July 1, 2013.
Permanent alimony is eliminated. All awards of alimony will be for a specific number of years, rather than being open ended (such as is done now in long-term marriages).
The standard of living during the marriage is no longer the basis for the need of the receiving spouse, but rather the needs of life after dissolution of marriage with the understanding that both parties will have a lower standard of living after the dissolution of marriage.
Definition of a Short-Term Marriage
A “short-term marriage” is now defined as less than or equal to 11 years, rather than less than seven years and there is a presumption that a marriage of less than 12 years would result in no alimony at all. If alimony is awarded in a short-term marriage, it can be for not more than 25 percent of the paying spouse’s gross income and for a period no longer than one-half of the length of the marriage (as opposed to the previous term allowed of up to the entire length of the marriage).
Definition of a Mid-Term Marriage
A “mid-term marriage” is now defined as being more than 11 years and less than 20 years, rather than more than seven years and less than 17 years. There is no presumption one way or the other as to whether alimony should be awarded, but if it is, it can be for no more than one-half of the length of the marriage (as opposed to the previous term allowed of up to the entire length of the marriage). The amount of alimony cannot exceed 35 percent of the paying spouse’s gross income.
Definition of a Long-Term Marriage
A “long-term marriage is now defined as being 20 years or more, rather than the previous 17 years or more. There is still a presumption in favor of alimony awards in long-term marriages. The alimony is not open-ended, but can only be for one-half of the length of the marriage and the amount cannot exceed 38 percent of the paying spouse’s gross income.
The combination of durational alimony and rehabilitative alimony cannot exceed 40 percent of the paying spouse’s gross income.
In a sliding scale based upon how long it has been since employed, a spouse seeking alimony who is not working will be presumed to be able to earn a percentage of what that spouse previously earned. That scale goes from a 90 percent presumption if the spouse has been out of work for less than a year to a 40 percent presumption if the spouse has been out of work for at least five years.
Unless the court is presented “clear and convincing evidence” to the contrary, alimony will end upon the retirement of the paying spouse.
With few exceptions, all existing alimony awards that were made by a judge as opposed to being agreed upon by the parties will be modifiable based upon the new law. Also, even if it is based upon an agreement, an award of alimony of 15 years or less that exceeds the length of the marriage is modifiable based solely on the new statute with no other proven changes in circumstances unless the agreement specifically said that it is non-modifiable.