My retirement plan is not to retire. I enjoy my work, and as a colleague once expressed so eloquently, “How could you not love the law? It’s inside work, no heavy lifting.” But seriously, I understand that this is the exception, not the rule. The good news for divorcing and divorced retirees and their future former or ex-spouses is that our legislature passed amendments to the alimony law last year which state clearly the process to be followed when this occurs. Most important is the presumption that “alimony shall terminate” on retirement at “full retirement age”, defined as when the retiree is entitled to claim full Social Security retirement benefits.

This presumption can be rebutted, or overcome, by demonstrating “good cause” to the Court for doing so, based on consideration of specific factors, (a) through (k) in the amendments, such as the parties’ ages, assets and incomes from all sources, as well as “the ability of the recipient to have saved adequately for retirement.” If this presumption is overcome, the Court will consider the parties’ current financial circumstances and make a ruling on “whether modification or termination of alimony is appropriate.” The statute with amendments is located at http://www.njleg.state.nj.us/2014/Bills/PL14/42_.PDF.

In the decades I practiced family law prior to these amendments, it was common to include provisions in a Marital Settlement Agreement that addressed what happened when the paying party retired. Generally they required the parties to exchange financial documents and to try to work out something fair (or equally odious) without having to go to Court. The big difference now is the presumption that “alimony shall terminate” on retirement at “full retirement age”.

We stand ready to assist our clients in dealing with retirement issues, whether by negotiation, collaboration, mediation, litigation or arbitration.

Pamela M. Copeland

Pamela M. Copeland is a New Jersey Supreme Court Certified Matrimonial Attorney, Mediator, and Collaborative Professional committed to providing you with the highest quality family law legal services at a reasonable cost.
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