In New Jersey, as in many other States, when a marriage ends one spouse must often pay alimony (spousal support) to the other spouse.
When the State Legislature passed the New Jersey Alimony Reform Act of 2014, it included statutory standards for modification or termination of a paying spouse’s alimony obligation, based not only on that person’s actual retirement—but also his or her “prospective” retirement.
However, the New Jersey Alimony Reform Act of 2014 did not establish or address specific time periods for filing an advance motion based on a “prospective” retirement.
In a case entitled Mueller v. Mueller, one New Jersey Family Court trial judge recently attempted to provide guidance on that issue.
When the parties were divorced, Mr. Mueller was in his 40’s, and the parties entered into a written Settlement Agreement which provided, among other things, that Mr. Mueller would pay his wife permanent alimony. However, that Settlement Agreement contained no provision expressly addressing his retirement and/or its relationship to Mr. Mueller’s ongoing permanent alimony obligation.
Now, at age 57, Mr. Mueller filed a Motion which sought an Order from the New Jersey Family Court, prospectively holding that his alimony obligation will terminate upon his planned retirement in five (5) years at age 62.
After a thorough analysis of the New Jersey Alimony Reform Act of 2014, the Mueller court concluded that although the statute does not set a minimum or maximum time period for obtaining an advance ruling, the spirit of the statute inherently contemplates that this type of motion must be made “within reasonable proximity” to the prospective retirement—and that the five-year period before Mr. Mueller’s prospective retirement was far too long. The court suggested, but did not mandate, that the motion be filed between 12 and 18 months of the prospective retirement.
The rationale for this conclusion was that, at the present time, the court would be unable to make a reasonable determination on the issue. In addition, the paying spouse must present a specific and detailed plan for his or her prospective retirement, rather than “a non-specific, general desire to someday retire.” Finally, the Mueller court observed that, of course, the retirement must actually take place before the alimony obligation will actually terminate.
Salvaggio Law Group devotes its entire practice to New Jersey Family Law matters, including those related to alimony. If you want to talk, please call us at (973) 455-1220 or fill out the Contact Form on our firm’s website.