One of the hallmarks of the new law is that the duration of alimony is now based upon the duration of the marriage. The duration of the marriage is counted from the date of the marriage to the date of service of a divorce complaint upon your spouse. The timing of when you file for divorce AND have the complaint served on your spouse can be important. For example if you have been married for more than twenty years, your alimony obligation or entitlement would ordinarily extend to the payor reaching the full federal retirement age. If you are married less than twenty years the duration of alimony will be limited to a percentage of the time you were married, according to a schedule. If you are married 15 to 20 years alimony may not last longer than 80% of the time you were married. If you are married 10-15 years, the percentage is 70%, 5-10 years 60% and 5 years or less, 50%. It is important to note that the law sets this out as the maximum duration of alimony. The courts now have the discretion to award a shorter term of alimony than the maximum prescribed by the new law.
There are exceptions to this schedule. The court can consider(but is not obliged to consider) any time that the couple lived together before being married to count as time married. Also the court can consider long periods of separation, presumably to shorten the durational limits under the new law. So if you and your spouse separate before filing for divorce it may shorten your alimony, but there is no guarantee. The safest approach is to file for divorce immediately to prevent the time from passing. The shame here is that many a marriage has been saved by a period of separation, and under the new law that course of action could be financially perilous for both parties.
This whole area of the new law provides ample opportunity for litigation. How can one prove ten or twenty years later that a couple lived together for a few years before the marriage? Who retains copies of leases, checking account statements, etc? It will be very hard to prove these circumstances after a long marriage, but it could make the difference between a few years of alimony or much more.