LGBTQ - Fitting a Square Peg into a Round Hole

Chapter 2 - Alimony

The New Jersey Alimony Statute makes it clear that for a marriage or civil union less than 20 years in duration, the term of alimony shall not exceed the length of the marriage, except in exceptional circumstances. 

This law is all well and good for couples of the opposite sex, who have always had the right to marry.  Couples in New Jersey who have been married for more than 20 years, can (in some cases) get open durational alimony, lasting more than the duration of the marriage. 

Marriage between couple of the same sex was not established until the United State Supreme Court decided the matter of Obergefell v. Hodges in 2015.  Accordingly, there can be no “marriage” between same sex couples in New Jersey longer than 7 years (at this point).  Similarly, Civil Unions were not legalized in New Jersey until 2007, with the passage of the Civil Union Act. Therefore, then can be no civil union between same sex couples in New Jersey longer than 15 years (at this point).

Based on the Alimony Statute, there is no same sex couple in New Jersey eligible to receive support from their former spouse for greater than the length of their civil union or marriage. This is problematic, as there are many same sex couples that have been in committed relationships (which they considered akin to a marriage) for greater than the time in which we have had legalized Civil Unions or Legal Same Sex Marriages in New Jersey. Notwithstanding the intent of the parties to be in a committed relationship for more than 20 years, the Alimony Statute does not provide these couples with an adequate remedy. 

In order to make these couples whole when they are dissolving their Civil Union, or Divorcing, creative arguments must be made to find an equitable remedy.  If you have concerns about your rights and what remedies you may have available to you, contact the attorneys of Cohn Lifland’s Family Law Group to discuss your matter.