With New Jersey’s Alimony Reform Act of September 2014, the burden of proof in showing why alimony should or should not end with retirement shifted from the payor to the recipient. Before that date the payor had to show why alimony should end at retirement. After that date, it became the recipient’s burden to prove that alimony should not end at full retirement age. The Alimony Reform Act also made it possible for New Jersey courts to consider prospective retirement as well as actual retirement as a reason to terminate or modify alimony.
One of the reasons cited for the change was to give supporting spouses the ability to determine what their financial situation will be upon retirement before making a final decision on when to retire. However, the meaning of the term “prospective retirement” was left open to interpretation.
In April 2016 the concept of “prospective retirement” came before Judge Jones of the Ocean County Superior Court, Family Part, when the case Mueller v. Mueller was brought before him.
Mueller v. Mueller
Mr. and Mrs. Mueller married in 1986 and divorced in 2006. As per their divorce settlement agreement, Mr. Mueller agreed to pay his former spouse $300 per week in permanent spousal support. The agreement did not include any provisions for a change in alimony when Mr. Mueller retired.
In April 2016 Mr. Mueller, the plaintiff, filed a post-judgment motion asking that alimony be terminated when he retires at age 62 in five years. He asserted that at age 62 he will be entitled to full retirement and maintained that if the court order ending his obligation is not issued, then he will not be able to retire.
Mrs. Mueller made a cross-motion for an order denying her former spouse’s motion for termination.
Factors Considered by Judge Jones in His Legal Analysis
Judge Jones cited several factors that should be considered when deciding whether or not modification or termination of alimony is appropriate. Among them were the following:
- the age and health of the parties at the time of the application;
- the generally accepted age of retirement in the payor’s field of employment;
- the reasonable expectations of the parties regarding retirement during the marriage;
- the parties’ reasonable expectations regarding retirement at the time of the divorce;
- the ability of the payor to maintain support payments following retirement; and
- the financial impact of the payor’s retirement upon the recipient.
Judge Jones concluded that although it is not specifically stated, it is inherently implied that the prospective retirement must be in the near future. Therefore, he did not grant Mr. Mueller’s request for termination of alimony based on his retirement five years in the future.
The judge noted that too much guesswork would have to be involved regarding the parties’ health, financial situations, and other relevant factors. He suggested that it would be more appropriate if Mr. Mueller waits to make his motion about 12 to 18 months prior to actually retiring.
If you want to know more about retirement and other factors affecting alimony, the experienced New Jersey alimony attorneys at Aretsky Law Group, P.C., can answer your questions. For an initial consultation, call us 24/7 at 800-537-4154.