This is a status report provided by the New Jersey State Bar Association on recently passed and pending legislation, regulations, gubernatorial nominations and/or appointments of interest to lawyers, as well as the involvement of the NJSBA as amicus in appellate court matters. To learn more, visit njsba.com.
NJ STATE BAR ASSOCIATION’S INSIDE TRENTON SEMINAR
The New Jersey State Bar Association will sponsor an informative seminar, Inside Trenton, at the Annual Meeting on Wednesday, May 15. The seminar will offer insights on the latest developments in Trenton affecting the practice of law in New Jersey. Attendees will learn from some of the state’s leading lawmakers about the legislative process and the hot topics in the state capitol.
Fruqan Mouzon, NJSBA trustee, chair of the NJSBA’s Legislative Committee and Director of Business and Commercial Litigation at Gibbons P.C., will be moderating the Inside Trenton seminar. Speakers will include Senator Peter J. Barnes III from District 18, Assemblyman Louis D. Greenwald from District 6 and Assemblyman John McKeon from District 27. Audience participation directing the discussion is welcome.
To sign up for this seminar and others at the New Jersey State Bar Association’s Annual Meeting, visit njsba.com
FAMILY LAW SPECIAL EDITION (continued)
NJSBA RECENT ACTION IN TRENTON
Family Law
S-873 (Vitale) (AMENDED TO ADDRESS CONCERNS) Permits adoptees and certain others to obtain an adoptee’s original birth certificate and other related information. On April 28, the governor’s conditional veto allowed adoptions to be exempt from the new law until Aug. 31, 2015, as long as birth parents inform the Department of Health and Senior Services to redact their name from birth certificates consistent with past NJSBA comments that the bill should be prospective in nature. The bill was received in the Senate.
INTRODUCED LEGISLATION
S-1918 (Weinberg) Creates a self-defense justification for victims of domestic violence. On April 28, the bill was introduced and referred to the Senate Judiciary Committee.
S-1966 (Cunningham) Clarifies a juvenile’s right to attorney representation; requires a 12-month judicial review hearing when a juvenile is placed out of the home. On April 28, the bill was introduced and referred to the Senate Judiciary Committee.
S-1989 (Kean) Modifies the spousal or civil union partner privilege against testifying in criminal actions to prevent invoking of the privilege under certain circumstances. On April 28, the bill was introduced and referred to the Senate Judiciary Committee.
PENDING LEGISLATION
S-122 (Bucco) /A-692 (Angelini) SUPPORT Expands the number of safe havens for leaving newborn infants. On March 24, the bill was released from the Senate Budget and Appropriations Committee with amendments and is awaiting Senate vote.
The New Jersey State Bar Association supports this bill, as it would expand the list of sites at which newborn infants may be left safely and anonymously by a parent or another person acting on the parent’s behalf in accordance with the provisions of the New Jersey State Haven Infant Protection Act. Safe havens would include fire stations, first aid facilities and rescue squads that are staffed 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
S-488 (Cunningham)/ A-845 (Mainor) OPPOSE Revises alimony laws, including eliminating permanent alimony and establishing guidelines for the amount and duration of alimony awards. On Jan. 14, the bill was introduced and referred to the Senate Judiciary Committee.
The New Jersey State Bar Association has concerns with this legislation, believing it fails to recognize the reality that each divorce case is unique and further eliminates the discretion of the court to ensure a fair and equitable resolution by taking into account the distinct facts of each individual case. The bill provides a complete overhaul of New Jersey’s existing alimony law and would mandate the implementation of a generic formula, which, in essence, would fix the alimony amount and duration without any consideration of the essential statutory factors ( i.e., age of the parties, health of the parties, absence from the job market, etc.) that justly weigh on a determination of alimony under the present law.
When providing an alimony award, there are many factors to consider, including whether the parties have children, the ages of the children, career sacrifices made by one party for the benefit of the family, the equal distribution of property, and domestic history. Each individual marriage creates a unique factual situation and warrants a unique analysis with regard to alimony. The association believes all parties to a marriage should not be considered the same for purposes of determining alimony, and that the inevitable result of the eradication of fact-based analysis in each case will be inequity and unfairness.
The association believes alimony awards cannot be uniform when the facts and circumstances of divorcing couples in each case are not identical; it is illogical to promote predictability while sacrificing fairness and equity, as this bill does. The state bar believes each individual party should rely on the specific factors currently enumerated in the law to ensure that alimony awards are fair and equitable, and that the proposed guidelines are not based on empirical data or statistical research of any kind, and in reality are unfair to the parties.
S-1808 (Bucco)/ A-1649 (Giblin) NJSBA DRAFTED Clarifies certain factors concerning modification and termination of alimony; eliminates the term “permanent alimony” from the statutes. On March 24, the bill was introduced and referred to the Senate Judiciary Committee.
The New Jersey State Bar Association assisted in drafting this legislation specifically to address concerns about what happens when a person paying alimony suffers from a change in economic circumstances or wants to retire, and when a person receiving alimony is in a serious relationship with another person. This legislation would create an easier process for the reduction, modification or suspension for alimony payors, providing specific guidance to judges about what factors should be considered when those requests are made and allowing judges the opportunity to make retroactive reductions.
The association believes this bill will allow alimony to be modified or terminated before a person actually retires or reaches a specific age by taking into account the circumstances of both the payor and the recipient. The bill also permits the suspension or termination of alimony if a person receiving alimony is found to be in a serious relationship with another individual.
A-236 (Kean) OPPOSE Provides for modification of child support and certain alimony payments due to changed circumstances. On Jan. 16, the bill was introduced and referred to the Assembly Judiciary Committee.
The New Jersey State Bar Association agrees with the concept of this bill but has concerns that it would permit modifications based upon temporary disability. The association believes the six-month timeframe contained in the bill is too short and individuals entering into an agreement would know they could try to modify their obligations after the six-month time period.
Additionally, the state bar is concerned the bill might change the law relating to limited duration alimony, and it is unclear whether the “unusual circumstances” standard required to convert term alimony awards to permanent alimony still applies.