In alimony reform, compromise might prove challenging

TRENTON – An alimony reform bill was held from committee Monday, which means to its backers that the battle is delayed, but not over.

The bill that was held, S2750, would revise alimony laws and set up guidelines based on a marriage’s length.

A different bill, A4525, which was not up today, would revise alimony as well but not in such a structured way; judges would have more leeway.

Supporters of each bill were in attendance today at the Senate Judiciary Committee, and it does not appear likely that a compromise is attainable.

“The procedural timeline is not in our favor,’’ said Michael Turner of Burton Trent Public Affairs LLC in regards to groups N.J. Alimony Reform and N.J. Women for Alimony Reform. His group backs the bill that was pulled from today’s session.

He said he feels that opponents are hoping to delay their efforts, but he said their 2,400 members are committed to the cause of what they see as common-sense alimony reform.

Backers of the other bill, A4525, include the N.J. Bar Association, which argues that a rigid formula that takes judicial discretion away serves no one.

“There has been a lot of discussion about this topic, and senators did not want to rush into anything,” said Brian Schwartz, who chairs the family law section at the N.J. Bar. 

He said that the lawmakers recognize the seriousness of the issue and would prefer all sides come together and work something out, but he recognizes that is unlikely.

And Karl Piirimae, an attorney who supports the bill that would establish guidelines based on years of marriage, indicted compromise is unlikely as well.

“There are some cases where you can’t trust the discretion of judges,’’ he said; that is why guidelines are preferable, because they would remove personal biases from cases.

Among other things, opponents of the Bar-backed bill said the lawyers want to protect their financially lucrative status quo. 

But opponents of the more structured proposal argue that all marriages are simply not identical, and that having a rigid framework would not guarantee fairness.

In alimony reform, compromise might prove challenging